Michigan passes bills that weaken union power

Don Dishman, of Battle Creek, Mich., protests at a rally at the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation passed last week. Michigan could become the 24th state with a right-to-work law next week. Rules required a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other's bills; lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday and Gov. Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

December 11, 2012 12:22:50 PM PST
Amid loud protests by angry workers, Michigan lawmakers approved on Tuesday the second of two contentious right-to-work bills that weaken union power in the historically pro-labor state.

California is not a right-to-work state, so unions here can make workers join and pay dues. Michigan is now going in the opposite direction.

With thousands of protesters circling outside the Capitol in Lansing and another 2,000-plus inside, the Michigan House passed right-to-work legislation affecting public sector workers.

Representatives had already OK'd a second bill focusing on private sector employees, and the Senate approved both last week.

Republican Governor Rick Snyder says he will sign the new bills into law as early as Wednesday.

Worker reaction was swift and angry. "You know, we're voting them in and here we are getting lied to, getting the union taken away from us. We don't like it at all," one protester said.

If and when the legislation clears the governor's desk, Michigan will become the 24th right-to-work state. That means non-union employees won't be forced to pay unions for negotiating contracts and other services.

Backers say it will bring more jobs to Michigan and give workers freedom. "What's great is all these people here protesting, after this passes, they can still belong to a union. So it's a win-win for everybody," one supporter said.

The president of the United Auto Workers union says even though Tuesday's protests fell on deaf ears, union voices will be heard in two years when the lawmakers who voted to pass the bills are up for re-election.