On Tuesday, Michigan voters will pass final judgment on whether public workers should fork over their bargaining rights to politically appointed “emergency managers.” California will consider forcing unions to hand-collect any dues money used for politics. And Georgia and Washington will vote on paving the way for waves of new non-union charter schools.
As a labor movement in crisis goes once more to the mat for Barack Obama, these state elections reflect the crucial context: US unions are on defense. National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel, who leads the country’s largest union, says members worry, “What if Congress and the office of the President had the same philosophies that we saw in Ohio and Wisconsin and Alabama and Idaho and Arizona? And I think they realize that the stakes are very high.”