Appearing on Wednesday's MSNBC Morning Joe, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder was greeted with childish behavior by the show's panel of left-wing pundits, who were unable to conceal their disgust with the state's right-to-work legislation just signed into law by the Republican. [Listen to the audio or watch the video after the jump]
Contributor Richard Wolffe led off the disrespectful display when Snyder defended the new law: "I don't believe this is actually anti-union. If you look at it, I believe this is pro-worker." Wolffe started laughing and rudely interrupted: "Hang on a second. Are you really – are you serious? Are you serious? This is not anti-union? This actually, at its core, undermines the ability for unions to organize. So you can make many arguments you like, but saying it's not anti-union..."
Moments later, co-host Joe Scarborough argued the law "undermines unions' ability to stay vibrant, right?" Liberal journalist Carl Bernstein could be heard in the background sighing and muttering agreement with Scarborough: "Absolutely." After Snyder pushed back on that characterization, Bernstein could again be heard sighing and remarking: "Oh, come on."
Near the end of the segment, Scarborough called out Bernstein: "Hold on, I think you should be penalized, Carl, because you were sighing – you were sighing more than Al Gore in his first debate with George W. Bush."
Despite that, Scarborough still encouraged Bernstein to ask Snyder a question: "Carl, do you have a question for the Governor and not a statement?...ask a question that will educate the viewers."
Bernstein came up with what he himself described as a "loaded question": "How do you distinguish your position on this from a real question about the welfare of workers in a state that historically unions have had a huge role in, and in making Michigan a better place, with cultural and political warfare – versus cultural and political warfare?"
Scarborough chimed in: "That's a great question. That's a great question. Governor?...That's a great question, period. Governor, respond."
Here is a transcript of the December 12 exchange:
RICHARD WOLFFE: Governor, as I understand it, the auto industry is still a pretty big employer in your state. And the auto industry has actually done really well in the last several years in spite of what you see as being an obstacle to business, that is, having strong unions. How do you square your statement that unions are somehow bad for business with the fate and the thriving nature of the auto industry in your state over the last several years?
SNYDER: Actually, I've never said unions are bad for business. And I don't believe this is actually anti-union. If you look at it, I believe this is pro-worker. Because the way I view it is, is workers now have freedom to choose.
WOLFFE: Hang on a second. Are you really – are you serious? Are you serious? This is not anti-union? This actually, at its core, undermines the ability for unions to organize. So you can make many arguments you like, but saying it's not anti-union-
SCARBOROUGH: Alright, alright, alright, Richard. Let him answer the question.
SNYDER: This does not deal with – this does not deal with organizing at all. This does not deal with collective bargaining at all. This has nothing to do with the relationship between an employer and a union. This is about the relationship between unions and workers. And this is about giving workers the freedom to choose, and unions have to be in a position to present a good value proposition. If you look at the history of unions in Michigan, we had very strong labor movement here. If you go to the last century, people flocked to join the unions because they saw value in that. Fast forward to today, shouldn't unions still have to present a value proposition? And if they do, people will join. People will want to be part of a union. And if they don't provide value, people shouldn't be forced to pay for something they don't see any value in. So again, this should make unions more effective in terms of having to put a value proposition to workers.
SCARBOROUGH: Governor, while I made a similar argument earlier that workers shouldn't be compelled to have to pay from their salary to a union with whom they disagree, I would not go so far as to say what you've just said, which is that this helps unions. I mean, it undermines unions'...
CARL BERNSTEIN: Absolutely.
SCARBOROUGH: ...ability to stay vibrant, right?
SNYDER: It really leaves it up to the union to decide and innovate as to what their value proposition is. I don't view it as pro or anti-union. Unions just need to be responsive to people to step up and deliver value and workers have that choice and workers should have that choice. They shouldn't be compelled to join something they don't see value in.
BERNSTEIN: [Sighs] Oh, come on.
MIKE BARNICLE: Governor, if – if I agree with you, and if I heard your statement that you just made correctly, that this is aimed at employees not having to pay into something that they don't put a value on. So according to the right-to-work legislation now, they can belong to a union, but they don't have to have their dues extracted from their paycheck because they don't put a value on it. Will those workers accept the pay raises that the unions negotiate for them?
SNYDER: Well, again, they're essentially told they have to be in that relationship. It's an exclusive relationship that the unions have with the employer. So they don't have an option with that.
BARNICLE: So that's a rather divisive workplace in the future.
SNYDER: Again, in right-to-work states, you don't see that division. Actually, we had good people up here in Michigan that came from right-to-work states. And I talked to a number of them. I actually sat with them during a press conference. And when you listen to them, they actually decided to join the union because they saw value. But they really appreciated having the choice. So again, if unions are showing value, people will want to put in dollars to be contributors to something that's giving them value.
SCARBOROUGH: Let me ask this.
BRZEZINSKI: Dare we? Dare we?
SCARBOROUGH: I don't know, because Carl – well, you know, Carl, I think-
BRZEZINSKI: Only if you're sweet.
SCARBOROUGH: Hold on, I think you should be penalized, Carl, because you were sighing...
BRZEZINSKI: I heard muttering.
SCARBOROUGH: ...you were sighing more than Al Gore in his first debate with George W. Bush.
BRZEZSINSKI: And muttering, which doesn't work.
BERNSTEIN: You're right. You're right.
SCARBOROUGH: Carl, do you have a question for the Governor and not a statement?
BRZEZINSKI: And it – yes.
SCARBOROUGH: Okay, go ahead.
BRZEZINSKI: 15 seconds.
BERNSTEIN: I have a question.
SCARBOROUGH: Governor, let's see how this works.
BERNSTEIN: I have a loaded question.
SCARBOROUGH: We're holding our – no, ask a question that will educate the viewers.
BERNSTEIN: My loaded question would be, how do you distinguish your position on this from a real question about the welfare of workers in a state that historically unions have had a huge role in, and in making Michigan a better place?
SCARBOROUGH: That's a great question. That's a great question. Governor?
BERNSTEIN: With cultural – with cultural and political warfare?
SCARBOROUGH: That's a great question, period. Governor, respond.
BERNSTEIN: Versus cultural and political warfare?
SNYDER: If you go back, again, in the last century, in the middle of the century, the unions did a lot of great things. They helped with working conditions, wages, so many great things. But if you come to today, in many respects, unions are a declining percentage of the work force. Michigan was just third in high-tech jobs being created in the country. Most of those jobs are not going to be union jobs. So we're seeing high-paying jobs come to Michigan without a union. And in fact, if you looked at our state over the last decade, we've suffered a lot being a not right-to-work in terms of our personal income, not just for that reason, but for many reasons. We dropped from 16th to 36th in terms of per capita income in our state. We've started to come back now. And I believe giving workers choice, you look at the results in Indiana, they have more and better jobs coming to Indiana today than they had before, and I think we'll see that same phenomenon in Michigan.
BERNSTEIN: Good luck.
SCARBOROUGH: Governor Rick Snyder, we really do appreciate you coming on this morning.
BRZEZINSKI: Nice to meet you.
SCARBOROUGH: We know you're in the middle of a tough political battle up there, but it's very important for our viewers to hear what's going on on both sides. It's very important for me because, well, I don't like being alone all the time. Thanks a lot, Governor, for being here.
BRZEZINSKI: Thank you very much.
SCARBOROUGH: We look forward to seeing you soon.
SNYDER: Thank you.