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Change is here & so is resistance

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Saturday, Dec. 15, 2012, 9:16 p.m.

When a so-called “right to work” law was rammed through by Michigan's Republican governor and legislature last week, no one should have been surprised. It might have been a little knee-jerk vindictiveness. But anyone who thought that the big issues of the day were resolved by the last election better think again.

The bill is more a “right to steal the benefits that others have paid for” law than anything else, allowing workers to enjoy union-won benefits without paying the union dues that are used to fight for salaries, pensions and safer working conditions.

Still, these laws remain popular on some level, especially where Republicans control state legislatures.

The average full-time, full-year worker in states that have such laws makes about $1,500 less per year than a similar worker in states without such laws, according to a 2011 report by the very liberal Economic Policy Institute.

Any hope that President Obama's victory created renewed goodwill toward working families has been dashed by an American tradition of resisting change — even if that leads to likely defeat.

Accepting the need to change can be difficult. In spite of all the signs from this last election, the only benefit Obama supporters won is the right to continue to fight for their causes, but with a leg up. And they should expect their social opponents to dig in deeper.

Even the president's proposal to tax the super wealthy a little bit more than the rest of us is not a lay-down hand. Mitt Romney's plan to continue the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy was clearly rejected, but it is still embraced by many in his party, and the struggle continues.

When Romney suggested that undocumented Hispanics should face self-deportation, coercing them to leave by making their lives here unbearable, over 70 percent of Hispanic American citizens voted for the president, sending a clear signal. And still, immigration changes are not in the bag.

Whether the issue was same-sex marriage or a woman's right to make her own medical decisions, Romney's views were rejected and Obama's embraced.

The country is headed in a new direction. And while old minorities have become the new majority, the fight for change has not ended.

Joseph Sabino Mistick, a lawyer, law professor and political analyst, lives in Squirrel Hill. E-mail him at:

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