LANSING (WWJ/AP) - Several protesters were taken into custody during a rally in the State Capitol Rotunda.
A throng of angry union activists massed on the sidewalk outside Rick Snyder's office building and in the Capitol across the street following a news conference during which the governor voiced his support for so-called "right-to-work" legislation..
WWJ Lansing Bureau Chief Tim Skubick said there were already hundreds of demonstrators inside the Capital Thursday when police put the building in "lockdown mode," meaning that those inside were allowed to stay but no one was allowed to enter.
"The State Police are very concerned about structural damage to the building. A state trooper just told us they don't want this to turn into a Wisconsin," Skubick said.
Police arrested eight unruly protesters and sprayed chemical Mace into the crowd when they tried to past two state troopers guarding the Senate door, State Police Inspector Gene Adamczyk said.
He called the demonstration "peaceful" for the most part.
Many union demonstrators were left out in the cold, including AFL-CIO President Karla Swift and UAW President Bob King who appealed to police for entrance.
Talking to WWJ Newsradio 950 from Lansing, King said said right-to-work creates inequality in the work place and lower wages. He called is a "bad policy for Michigan," claiming 25 years of data shows it hasn't been effective in other states.
"What's going on the the ground here is people are really expressing their frustration and anger that the Republican leadership has chosen to divide the state rather than unify the state," King said. "They've chosen to take care of the one percent again instead of the 99 percent."
Skubick said protesters could be heard shouting out in the hallway while the state Senate and House continued to work.
Gov. Snyder and the Republican-controlled Legislature's top two leaders said Thursday they would seek to push though right-to-work legislation for Michigan in the next few days, potentially giving the movement its strongest foothold yet in the Rust Belt region, where organized labor already has suffered several body blows.
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.
The bills were introduced on Thursday and Snyder, along with House Speaker Jase Bolger and Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, said they would push for quick passage. (More on this here).
King said he expects that the legislature will approve the legislation and Gov. Snyder will sign it. Next step, he says, will be to work to repeal the new law. He says the focus will shift in 2013 to efforts to repeal the law.
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