Governor signs measures that unions call attacks.
Michigan lawmakers give final approval to right-to-work legislation, dealing a defeat to organized labor in a state that has been a cradle of the movement for generations.
LANSING, MIch. — As the chants of protesters filled the Capitol, Michigan lawmakers gave final approval Tuesday to right-to-work legislation, dealing a defeat to organized labor in a state that has been a cradle of the movement for generations.
The Republican-dominated House ignored Democrats’ pleas to delay the passage and instead approved two bills with the same efficiency as the Senate showed last week. One measure dealt with private sector workers, the other with government employees. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed them within hours.
“This is about freedom, fairness and equality,” House Speaker Jase Bolger said during floor debate. “These are basic American rights — rights that should unite us.”
After the vote, he said, Michigan’s future “has never been brighter, because workers are free.”
Once the laws are enacted, the state where the United Auto Workers was founded and labor has long been a political titan will join 23 others with right-to-work laws, which ban requirements that nonunion employees pay unions for negotiating contracts and other services.
Supporters say the laws give workers more choice and support economic growth, but critics insist the real intent is to weaken organized labor by encouraging workers to “freeload” by withholding money unions need to bargain effectively with management.
Protesters in the gallery chanted “Shame on you!” as the measures were approved. Union backers clogged the hallways and grounds shouting “No justice, no peace,” and Democrats warned that hard feelings from the legislation and Republicans’ refusal to hold committee hearings or allow a statewide referendum would be long lasting.
U.S. Sen. Carl Levin and other Democrats in the state’s congressional delegation met with Snyder on Monday and urged him to slow things down.
“For millions of Michigan workers, this is no ordinary debate,” Levin said. “It’s an assault on their right to have their elected bargaining agent negotiate their pay, benefits and working conditions, and to have all who benefit from such negotiations share in some way in the cost of obtaining them.”
Police protect a state office building as protesters hold a sit-in during a demonstration in Lansing, Mich., on Tuesday. Michigan lawmakers approved right-to-work bills as thousands of protesters thronged the Capitol.