Violence at the Michigan union protests: The fallout for Big Labor

Unions suffered a loss when Michigan became the 24th state to adopt "right-to-work" laws. Are pro-union protesters making matters worse?

Michigan State Police push back protesters blocking a street during a rally at the Michigan State Capitol on Dec. 11.
(Image credit: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

"The labor protests in Michigan took an ugly turn" this week, says Aliyah Frumin at MSNBC. A burly union protester punched Fox News contributor Steven Crowder in the face. Demonstrators brought down a tent set up for members of Americans for Prosperity, an anti-union group backed by libertarian billionaires Charles and David Koch. Tensions were high, as Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) had just delivered Big Labor a loss by signing bills making his state the 24th to adopt "right-to-work" laws prohibiting unions from compelling workers to become members and pay dues. Video of the incidents went viral, prompting cries from the Right of union thuggery. Will these incidents make this setback even worse for organized labor? Take a look:

This video says it all, says John Hinderaker at Power Line. Unions have devolved into little more than a "criminal conspiracy" to force workers to "pay involuntary tribute" to Big Labor and their Democratic allies. These guys are goons. And they've got supporters in high places: One Michigan Democrat said "there will be blood" over the new laws. That's hardly ambiguous. If the law won't let unions force people to join and pay dues against their will, it looks like they're willing to use their fists, says Allahpundit at Hot Air. "Given their tactics, who'd dare take a job working alongside these cretins while refusing to unionize?"

"Good, serious progressives are supposed to condemn violence as a political tactic, because it's wrong and in many cases counterproductive," says Max Read at Gawker. "But do we really need to condemn the union protester who socked Fox News comedian Steven Crowder in the jaw?" Crowder went to the protest looking for a fight, inserting himself into "the middle of an argument between billionaire-funded, know-nothing ideologues and people whose livelihoods and stability are being threatened by the insatiable greed of the super-rich and the blind extremism of their wooden-headed political allies." He was aiming to confirm Team Conservative's "stereotypes of violent union 'thugs,'" and he got what he wanted.

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Conservatives insist these incidents look as bad for the media as they do for unions, says Erik Wemple at The Washington Post. The argument is that major news outlets are ignoring union thuggery but would have gone nuts if a Tea Partier had punched a liberal on video. "Violence at a pivotal union protest indeed merits strong national coverage," it's true. But it's Crowder's "buffoonish" actions since the scuffle that are something for networks to ignore. He said on Twitter the antics were "fun" and "challenged his assailant to a mixed martial arts (MMA) fight. And he has generally sounded as if he's enjoying this boost to his career prospects." Given the way he's carrying on, "I, too, may well pass on the story of his beating, were I a network executive producer."

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