LANSING (WWJ/AP) - It appears certain that so-called "right-to-work" legislation will be introduced in Michigan.
Gov. Rick Snyder, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville and Speaker of the House Jase Bolger on Thursday announced that the legislature will move forward with right-to-work legislation for not just public but also private employees -- without Democratic support. They said bills would be introduced Thursday and they would push for quick passage.
Snyder, who'd previously said the effort was "not on [his] agenda," held a news conference voicing his support for the legislation.
"This is all about taking care of the hard-working workers of Michigan; about being pro-worker, about giving the freedom to choose who they associate with," said Snyder. "I do not view this as something against the unions. I support the unions in many regards; I support their right to organize. This has nothing to do with collective bargaining. I continue to be an advocate of collective bargaining in Michigan."
Hundreds of hundreds of chanting, whistle-blowing union activists have been packing the Capitol rotunda chanting slogans such as "Union buster" and "Right-to-work has got to go."
Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick said State Police had pre-planned for a potentially rowdy crowd of pro-union demonstrators.
So-called right-to-work measures generally prohibit requiring unions from collecting fees from nonunion employees, which opponents say drains unions of money and weakens their ability to bargain for good wages and benefits. Supporters insist it would boost the economy and job creation.
"We respect the fact that the freedom-to-work issue evokes strong emotions among supporters and opponents," said Snyder. "That's why we've focused on other reforms that are so critical to Michigan's turnaround. But with this issue now on the table, it's time to embrace the benefits that come with giving working men and women the freedom they deserve. The values of freedom, fairness and equality in the workplace should unite us all. And as states fiercely compete for jobs, this legislation will ensure that investors know Michigan is the place to do business."
Richardville said it's about giving workers freedom to choose.
"I have long been a supporter of collective bargaining, but whether you support collective bargaining or not, it should be the worker's freedom to choose whether or not he or she belongs to a union," said Richardville, R-Monroe, in a statement. "There has been a lot of talk and discussion on this issue, but what this ultimately comes down to is the individual worker."
Democratic leaders denounced right-to-work as a handout to corporate executives at the expense of workers. They said it was political retribution after organized labor unsuccessfully pushed a November ballot initiative that would have made such laws unconstitutional.
"They have launched an all-out war on the middle class in this state, and it's time we fought it back," said Rep. Tim Greimel of Auburn Hills, who will be the House minority leader next year.
House Democrats have pledged to use all legal means to stop right-to-work and have already have begun withholding votes on some bills to show their displeasure. In the Senate, they demanded that all bills be read in their entirety before votes were taken, slowing the pace to a crawl.
"We're going to fight and we're going to make it as difficult as possible on them," Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer said. "We're going to look at every strategy we can."
Results of a poll conducted Nov. 27-29 by Lansing-based EPIC-MRA said 54 percent of Michigan voters generally favor right-to-work laws, with 40 percent opposed. But when asked how they felt about Michigan becoming a right-to-work state, 47 percent are in favor and 46 percent were opposed - a statistical tie.
UAW President Bob King says "right to work" is wrong for Michigan.
"We wanna state (where) everybody succeeds — not just the one percent, we want everybody," King said at the rally. "We're gonna to do whatever we have to do to move for justice in Michigan."
King said he telling his members to voice their concerns — calling for a united, not divided, state. "If you look across the board, the statistics are irrefutable. Every right-to work state has lower wages, less health care, lower pensions — it hurts everbody in the state," he said.
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