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Ear to the Ground

The Rich, Conservative Push for Right-to-Work (Video)

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Posted on Dec 12, 2012
AP/Paul Sancya

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder.

What appears to be an impromptu shift in Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder’s stance on the right-to-work bill he signed into law this week was a consequence of months of planning supported by the Koch family and the behind-the-scenes conservative lobby group ALEC.

The president of the United Auto Workers, Bob King, told MSNBC that the union was “blindsided” when Snyder signed the law, given that the group was engaged in what it described as amicable talks with the governor—who had previously opposed the legislation—just days before.

“We had made a lot of progress, which he and the staff, everybody, felt good about,” King said. “But then all of a sudden, he flipped on us, and we heard that he was going to sign this bill.”

Snyder abruptly began describing the bill as “Freedom to Work” and “pro-worker.” Republican Rep. Mike Shirkey echoed the governor’s language, saying in an interview Wednesday: “There’s a long list of very public special interest groups and associations that have been advocating for labor freedom for a long time. ... There’s also a long list of people who would just as soon stay behind the scenes who have been very supportive. And I’m just privileged to be one small piece in this very big puzzle.”

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

Ned Resnikoff at ‘The Ed Show’:

One key piece in the puzzle: The Mackinac Public Policy Center, a Michigan-based non-profit that has been publishing reports about the benefits of right-to-work legislation for more than two decades. The organization is well-connected; its president, Joseph G. Lehman, is a former VP of communications at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C. And its director of labor policy, F. Vincent Vernuccio—a former Bush administration official—has been lauded by Fox News’ Stuart Varney as a “top union watchdog.”

Mackinac’s influence is local, but its network is nationwide. The think tank is a member of the State Policy Network, which Mackinac spokesperson Ted O’Neil told MSNBC was something of a “sister think tank.” Mother Jones’ Andy Kroll, who has reported extensively on SPN’s activities, has written that it’s behind “one of the largest assaults on American unions in recent history.”

… According to a report in The Nation, Mackinac spent more than $3 million on its public advocacy budget in 2008, 2009 and 2010. In 2011, its spending shot up to $5.7 million.

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