Thousands to rally against Michigan right-to-work

UPDATED: The Republican-majority House passes both union-busting bills and Gov. Snyder defends his support

Published December 11, 2012 1:50PM (EST)

UPDATE 2.30 p.m. (EST): Gov. Rick Snyder spoke to MSNBC following the House votes and reiterated his vow to sigh right-to-work bills into law. Host Andrea Mitchell pushed the Republican governor on the fact that right-to-work had not been a campaign issue. He responded that his decision to back the union-busting legislation followed a failed attempt by labor leaders in the state to extend collective bargaining rights through a bill called Proposal 2. Snyder told Mitchell:

Well, the voters spoke in November and dramatically voted down Proposal 2, but then this right to work discussion just continued to escalate and was becoming very divisive. So the way I viewed it is, it's on the table. It's a hot issue. Let's show some leadership. So I stepped up to say when I review it, I think it's a good thing. It's about being pro-worker. It’s about giving freedom of choice to workers.

Watch a clip of the interview via MSNBC below.

UPDATE 1.50 p.m. (EST): The Michigan House has approved both right-to-work bills, pertaining to both public and private sector workers, and the legislation will now be sent to Gov. Rick Snyder, who vowed he would sing the bills into law.

UPDATE 12.50 p.m. (EST): The Michigan House has approved one out of two right-to-work bills Tuesday. According to the AP, "The Republican-dominated chamber passed a measure dealing with public-sector workers 58-51 as protesters shouted 'shame on you' from the gallery and huge crowds of union backers massed in the state Capitol halls and on the grounds."

A vote is still to come today on a second bill focusing on private sector workers.

08.50 a.m. (EST): The conclusion is foregone that Michigan will become the 24th state to pass right-to-work legislation, but unions and labor rights supporters are not taking it lying down. On Tuesday,  as the state Legislature reconvenes for likely the final vote on union-busting bills, as many as 10,000 people are expected to converge at the Capitol in Lansing in protest.

In a sneak move last Thursday, GOP lawmakers with Koch brother backing pushed right-to-work bills through the state House and Senate. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has vowed to sign into law the measure, which would prohibit unions from collecting fees from non-union workers. Although Democratic lawmakers -- a minority in both Michigan's House and Senate -- can do little to stop the legislation, activists aim to highlight that Michigan, a historic heartland for organized labor, is the new battleground in the fight over union rights.

As Allison Kilkenny noted at the Nation, hundreds of union members took part in civil disobedience training sessions over the weekend to prepare for Tuesday's protests. The union hall at the United Auto Workers Local 600 reportedly could not hold all the "nurses, autoworkers, Teamsters, teachers, members of SEIU, AFSCME, UFCW, ISO and other unions who attended the meeting."

Michigan has the fifth-highest percentage of unionized workers in the country at 17.5 percent and the Detroit area is headquarters for General Motors, Ford Motor and Chrysler, as well as United Auto Workers, the country's richest union.

Meanwhile, state police were already in place around the Capitol building early Tuesday. "No doubt, the anticipatory police presence is related to the huge backlash to similar anti-worker legislation signed by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker that led to union activists occupying the Capitol building in February and March of 2011," noted Kilkenny.

President Barack Obama gave his support to the union activists during his visit to the Daimler Detroit Diesel plant in Michigan on Monday, criticizing the right-to-work effort. "What they're really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money," he said. A study last year by the Economic Policy Institute found that wages in right-to-work states are on average 3.2 percent lower than states without the legislation.

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By Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email

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