As I write this, most of Pennsylvania's political glitterati has its mind on New York City, where the annual Pennsylvania Society gathering is underway. But my mind is on the bustling metropolis of Lansing, the capital of Michigan, where both houses of the legislature approved right-to-work bills yesterday, issuing forth a loud cry of "No soup for you!" to furious protesters.
There will be much more to say about this as the situation unfolds; the legislature's work is not yet finished, Gov. Rick Snyder hasn't yet signed the bill (though he's promised to do so), and you can bet there will be litigation. But right now, I'd suggest there are at least two lessons to be learned from Michigan's breakthrough.
Lesson one: There are now no excuses. Don't let anyone tell you we can't have real reform here in Pennsylvania because the state is just too blue or union dominated. As if Wisconsin were not enough evidence that this excuse is bogus, now there's Michigan, where President Obama's reelection margin was larger and the historic attachment to unions is even deeper than in the Badger State.
Lesson two: Don't buy the hero worship. I hear from people all the time who believe huge advances like passing right-to-work in Michigan only come as the direct result of brave leadership by superhuman governors. I've got nothing against Gov. Snyder, and I'm glad he came out for right-to-work this week, but make no mistake: This week was the first time. As the Detroit News reported, "Ever since he took office in January 2011, Snyder has said right-to-work is not on his agenda and that lawmakers should focus more on issues that will create jobs and a strong economy." Freedom fighters in Michigan didn't take his previous disclaimers of interest as definitive statements of "no soup for you"; they convinced him and others in Lansing to get it done. Rather than losing heart until some future election produces a political messiah, those of us who want to save Pennsylvania should follow suit and bring the successes of Wisconsin—and now Michigan—to our state.