In the explanation Representative Joe Graves gave on his website for voting in favor of the Right-to-Work (RTW) law he concentrated on only one reason. Better wages for workers, more growth for Michigan and helping the middle-class did not appear anywhere. Most likely it was because major independent research showed that RTW provided none of that. The only reason Graves gave is “Freedom.”
I completed my writing about Representative Joe Graves’ reason. But after studying the matter with some of my advanced students and hearing their comments I changed my mind about publication. Instead I feel readers might be more interested in how my students looked at the situation.
These are my advanced conversation students. All are in their mid 30’s to 40’s and are business professionals in various careers. Previously their thoughts about Fentonites were written about in Local Voices. The names are changed here to protect their identity.
Jorge, a marketing and advertising executive, made the first comment after reading what Graves wrote. “He (Graves) seems to be hiding something. In a short writing the word ‘freedom’ is used five times.”
“Yes, in the body language of writing it could be construed that way,” I said. “However it could just be the way he writes. Remember one incidence is not enough to draw a conclusion. Is there anything else that could indicate he may be trying to hide something?”
“He didn’t write anything to the people before the vote,” Jorge said.
Now the 40 something female of the group, Paola, chimed in. “We have his blogs to establish a baseline and he does not keep repeating the same word or phrase in them.”
With all of my advanced students we do several weeks studying body language, negotiation techniques and media manipulation methods. So that is why they use phrases like “establishing baseline.”
“Still not concrete proof in my opinion,” I said. "We are playing with a man’s character here. While you could use such information for yourself to be cautious about whether to do business with the person or not, I would not assume it to be 100% accurate.”
Now to see if the students were paying attention to the other reads I said, “Suppose he was hiding something, what would that be?”
Felipe, the 38-year-old financial fund director, spoke. “The MSNBC article stated that some wealthy people and special interest groups were really pushing members of congress to pass the RTW.” Felipe looked at this copy of the article and said, “Here it states that Dick DeVos has been twisting arms over the legislation and threatening to spend whatever it takes to beat those congressmen in the next election if they don’t vote for RTW.”
“I understand that in the USA if the workers of a company are to be represented by a union then the majority of the workers must vote for the union to represent them,” said Paola.
“That is correct,” I said.
“There are companies that do not have unions. And a worker already has the freedom to choose if he does not want to work for a company with a union or not. But the RTW is stating that if a person wants to work for a company with a union, but he does not like the union, then he does not have to join and pay the dues.”
Though she said it as thinking statements, I answered it as if was a question and said, “Still correct.”
I could see her running things through her mind. She said, “The union representation was elected in a democratic method. And the people to represent the workers are elected in a democratic election with the person getting the most votes winning.”
“My brother-in-law was a union representative,” I said. “And yes, he ran twice before finally getting elected.”
“So by voting in favor of the RTW Graves was giving a little more freedom for the worker, but doing it by subverting democracy.”
Jorge said, “In the interview with Levin the person interviewing him stated that people for the RTW were saying that workers should not have to join the union because the fee might go for something they did not support. Government elected officials are chosen by the democratic method of those with support of over 50% of the people they represent. If we apply RTW to government then if someone does not agree with how the tax money is being spent then they need not pay those taxes. For instance all the people who are against troops in Afghanistan would not have to pay the portion of their taxes which go for that.”
“That would make Representative Graves a hypocrite,” said Paola.
“Can you explain that?” I said.
“He supported a law that allows individuals who may not agree with the majority of people who elected someone to represent them, the unions, to not have to pay to support that elected entity. Yet at the same time he is not reducing his taxpayer-paid salary as an elected entity of the constituents of the 51st district by a percentage equivalent to the percentage of people who voted against him and especially those who are against the RTW. With his vote he is stating that it is OK to infringe upon one of the concepts of democracy if a union elected by the majority of people it represents does not get paid by individuals who may disagree with what it does for the majority of the people, but that same concept of democracy is not to be subverted when it comes to his paycheck."
Class ended with me pondering what they said. I believe the best way to end this writing is to leave readers pondering.