Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed two right-to-work bills into law late Tuesday afternoon, as thousands in Lansing staged angry demonstrations and a union official in Washington likened the bills to "kicking a hornets' nest."
"I don't view this as anti-union at all," Snyder, a Republican, said of the bills, one affecting public employees and the other covering those in the private sector. Both bills forbid the requirement, standard in union contracts, that non-union workers pay union dues as a condition of employment. "I believe this is pro-worker," said Snyder, who argued that the legislation will attract more business into the state and thus create more jobs. Michigan, where unemployment is at 9.1 percent, has one of the highest jobless rates in the country. Opponents argued that those who have jobs will end up working for less without the leverage of unified workforces supporting their respective unions.
Thousands of union members and supporters descended on the State House Tuesday, some as early as 5 a.m., in anticipation of the vote by the House of Representative on the two bills, passed last week by the state Senate. Beating drums and chanting, crowds created what the Washington Post described as a "deafening thunder" as the lawmakers voted. Later, demonstrators moved across the street to the Romney building where the governor has an office. Riot police surrounded the building to keep the protesters out. Police pepper-sprayed some of the demonstrators and removed them from the front of the building. State police reported three arrests at the site.
The Romney building has an ironic significance for the pro-union demonstrators, since it was named after the late Governor George Romney, a Republican and the father of this year's GOP presidential candidate, Mitt Romney. The elder Romney, who was governor of Michigan from 1963 to 1969, signed the first state laws giving collective bargaining rights to public service employees.
Click here to read the entire article.
Photo of protesters at a rally outside the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Dec. 11: AP Images