Understatement of the Week: Brandon Dillon

By ANTHONY HALL, United Press International  |  Dec. 16, 2012 at 3:25 PM
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It was not a good week, frankly, for telling the truth in Michigan.

It all began with Gov. Rick Snyder who allowed the issue of right-to-work would not be an issue while he was in charge because it was too divisive for the people of his state.

Then, suddenly, it was not too divisive after all. After fellow Republicans met with the governor to press their point, the governor gave it a green light, brushing aside whether it was divisive or not for a loftier concept -- the fact that it would pass.

Then, after a hasty signing of the bills that brought tens of thousands of union protesters to the state Capitol, the governor mentioned a signing ceremony for the new laws was unwarranted because, "as he put it, "this isn't us versus them."

It was "us versus" them before it was given the green light. A half a week later, with the laws rushed through legislation, it was signed not at a signing ceremony but with police in full riot gear surrounding his office building. Despite the governor's attempt at a soft characterization, "us versus them" seemed exactly what it was.

There were more than a few similarly disingenuous statements through the half week that the issue was suddenly not divisive anymore and railroaded through the process by eager Republicans.

"This is the day that Michigan freed its workers," said state Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons, in a kind of Adm. David Farragut in reverse sort of thing, as in: To hell with the obvious, full speed ahead.

Then there was the quaint obfuscation from Rep. Mike Shirkey, who tried to not explain why police and firefighters were exempted from the right-to-work bills.

While attempting not to say, "We're trying to buy their loyalty," Shirkey instead shirked. "They [police and firefighters unions] behave more like value-adding trade associations than unions," he said, possibly losing less sleep over the statement than those who tried to figure out what he meant.

It was that kind of week. The apparently harmonizing laws that brought 15,000 of workers out in the streets in a show of solidarity are laws that say employers may tear out the paragraphs in their union contracts that say they have to hire union workers in a unionized shop. In other words, a worker can skip paying union dues if he or she prefers it that way, a sure a way to undermine a union as ever could be devised. Nevertheless, a parade of Republicans who backed the new laws said they had nothing to do with the rights of workers to organize.

Yes, closing one eye and shutting the other was popular in Lansing this week.

Democrats responded, of course, in what turned out to be a too-feeble response. They were outnumbered, anyway.

Early in the week, at a visit to Detroit Diesel in Redford Township, President Barack Obama said government "shouldn't be taking away your rights to bargain for better wages and working conditions."

"What they're really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money," he added.

Too little, too late. It was a done deal, given the green light in a lame-duck session by a governor who recognized the divisiveness with a stacked deck is like a penthouse view: Who cares if it's a long way down?

Understatement of the Week, the runner-up: "We expect everyone in an organization to pay their fair share. Let's call this legislation what it is -- the right to freeload," said state Rep. Bob Constan, D-Dearborn Heights.

And the Understatement of the Week comes from State Rep. Brandon Dillon, D-Grand Rapids.

"Good ideas get debated and bad ones get rammed through with police protection in a lame-duck Legislature," Dillon said.

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