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Labor Fight in Michigan Goes National

President Obama; photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

President Obama takes a tour Monday of the Daimler Diesel Plant in Redford, Mich. Photo by Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images.

The Morning Line

State lawmakers will hold a vote Tuesday to approve a pair of bills that would make Michigan the 24th right-to-work state in the country, a move Republican supporters of the change say would boost the economy. At the core of the issue is whether labor unions can automatically collect dues from members through their paychecks.

The scene — with its boisterous protests in the Capitol building in Lansing and a Republican governor at the helm — resembles the fight over labor rights that played out last year in Wisconsin.

President Obama waded into the battle Monday during a visit to the Daimler Diesel plant in Redford, where he told the crowd of auto workers that he stood with those who opposed the right-to-work legislation.

“What we shouldn’t be doing is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages and working conditions,” Mr. Obama said. “These so-called right-to-work laws, they don’t have to do with economics; they have everything to do with politics. What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money.”

Organized labor was a key part of the president’s coalition in November, with union households nationally backing Mr. Obama over Mitt Romney by a 58 percent to 40 percent margin. In Michigan the spread was even larger, with the president winning homes with union members, 66 percent to 33 percent.

Labor activists, who gathered outside the Capitol at dawn, are asking Republican Gov. Rick Snyder to veto the measure when it passes, or to at least delay the passage of the bill to allow for more public comment.

On Monday’s NewsHour, Gwen Ifill talked with Democratic Rep. Sander Levin and Michigan State Sen. John Proos, a Republican. They sparred over what the changes would mean for their state’s economy.

Levin argued that the measure is “divisive” and insisted it would “snuff out the voice in the workplace, to destroy collective bargaining that made the middle class of Michigan and this country.”

Proos said one only needs to look to neighboring Indiana to see the benefits of becoming a right-to-work state. “[I]t’s important that we give workers that freedom to choose what they think is best for them and their representation, instead of paying that private industry, that private union that is instead providing what is in some cases a subpar service,” he said. “You ought to be buying a service that in fact you believe in and you believe is going to represent you well; 17 percent of Michigan are union folks today; 17 percent will be union tomorrow.”

Watch here or below:


The Washington Post’s Lori Montgomery joined Judy Woodruff on the NewsHour to discuss Monday’s developments — or lack thereof — as lawmakers came back to town for what was scheduled to be their final work week of the year. With negotiations crawling along and no outward signs of a deal to avoid going over the “fiscal cliff,” members of Congress are expecting to return to Washington next week as well.

Both sides met as recently as Sunday, Montgomery said, but neither has budged on their demands.

“They don’t have much time,” she said. “If they want to do a big bipartisan deal that has all these moving parts in it, they really need to start selling it to lawmakers by the end of this week.”

With the president hitting the trail to sell his side of the story, the Obama campaign is activating its network on the issue. Deputy campaign manager Stephanie Cutter emailed supporters Monday urging them to start a phone tree of sorts to pressure Republican members of Congress.

“Who will decide if your taxes increase in just 22 days? A few dozen members of the House of Representatives, that’s who,” Cutter wrote. She framed the debate in Democratic terms:

Here’s what’s going on right now: President Obama is asking Congress to move forward on a plan that would prevent 98 percent of American families from paying higher taxes next year. The Senate has passed that bill, and the President is ready to sign it — but the Republican leadership in the House of Representatives won’t even bring the bill to the floor for a vote. House Democrats have filed a petition that would force a vote if it attracts 218 signatures.

She directed members of the email list to an online tool allowing them to “reach out to fellow Obama supporters” to “make sure they contact their Republican representative.”

“Let’s get one thing straight: If your taxes go up, Republicans will have made a conscious choice to let that happen. They’ll have missed the opportunity to prevent it, just to cut taxes for the wealthy,” Cutter wrote.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee is doing an automated call campaign against 35 House Republicans, directing voters to a microsite that claims they are “holding middle class tax cuts hostage and threatening to send the economy over the fiscal cliff in order to get more budget-busting tax breaks for millionaires.”

Republicans, for their part, are sending around an Associated Press story suggesting small businesses don’t like Mr. Obama’s tax proposal.

Watch the segment here or below:


  • The longest serving senator, Democrat Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, is on oxygen monitoring at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. Inouye, 88, said in a statement he is “for the most part,” is doing “OK.”

  • Fog grounded a number of senators Monday and prevented them from flying to Washington in time for a vote.

  • The Republican National Committee has formed a group to figure out why the party lost the election.

  • Tennessee won’t take part in the federal health insurance exchange system. The Kaiser Family Foundation has a helpful chart showing where other states stand on the Affordable Care Act.

  • South Carolina GOP Gov. Nikki Haley seems unlikely to appoint Stephen Colbert as a placeholder senator for two years, despite him winning the latest round of polls on who might fill GOP Sen. Jim DeMint’s seat. Public Policy Polling has the roundup of where the rest of the potential field falls. Rep. Tim Scott holds a slim lead over other Republicans.

  • Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., will not challenge Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, for the speakership, despite some conservatives pushing the idea. Price might run in a primary against Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Roll Call reported.

  • Politico’s Seung Min Kim identifies lesser-known GOP lawmakers expected to play an outsize role in immigration reform next year.

  • Roll Call’s Kyle Trygstad reports that Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., will be the chairman of the House Republicans’ large annual fundraising dinner.

  • The Atlantic’s Molly Ball has a detailed piece on the inner workings of the political campaign over gay marriage.

  • Reuters reported Monday that the U.S. Senate intelligence committee will vote next week on its “long-running investigation into contentious counter-terrorism practices, including ‘enhanced interrogation techniques,’ used by the CIA during the George W. Bush administration.”

  • A top aide to Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., is taking a big new job at Facebook, but the Boston Globe reports that the office says Jodi Seth’s career move has nothing to do with any administration jobs in Kerry’s own future.

  • North Carolina’s “Choose Life” license plates are unconstitutional, a judge ruled.

  • Buzzfeed lists the 23 D.C. political operatives you need to know.

  • Colorado joined Washington state Monday in legalizing marijuana usage when Gov. John Hickenlooper declared it so after voters last month approved the change to the state’s constitution.

  • Talking Points Memo has a list of all the folks who took Grover Norquist’s tax pledge and might defect.

  • Two conservatives argue in a Roll Call op-ed that claims of public support for higher taxes are misleading.

  • Don’t worry, Public Policy Polling also asks voters about the things that truly matter. Here are the results of the annual holiday poll, in which Santa wins the hypothetical election for the most plausible holiday character and Mitt Romney would get more presents than Mr. Obama. PPP also asked, “If Grandma got run over by a reindeer, would you press charges against Santa?” The firm found 61 percent would not press charges while 24 percent would. Thirty-three percent of Democrats would press charges, compared to 19 percent of Republicans.

  • Tuesday’s tidbit from NewsHour partner Face the Facts USA includes a slide show of the federal government’s vehicle fleet. The nonpartisan organization found that the fleet has “grown by 20 percent over the past decade — to 254,059 in 2011. And that’s not even accounting for the government’s most road-reliant divisions — the military and the U.S. Postal Service. The big fleet comes with a big price tag: $1.8 billion in 2011, plus $566 million in fuel costs.”


  • Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano talked to Ray Suarez on Monday about immigration reform, noting, “[Y]ou’re never going to seal that border.”

Watch here or below:

  • Paul Solman’s latest Making Sense piece explores the impacts of eliminating tax deductions.

  • Our latest science story explores owl puke. It’s really interesting, but read it after breakfast.

  • We post a story about cancer in the developing world, the first in a series produced by PRI in collaboration with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

  • Our latest look at the aftermath of super-storm Sandy focuses on the environmental effects.


Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.

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