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Michigan Governor Signs Right-to-Work Bills Into Law

Once they take affect early next year, Michigan will become the 24th right-to-work state in the United States.

December 12, 2012
Related Topics: Unions, Labor Trends, Labor Relations, Policies and Procedures, Latest News
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Gov. Rick Snyder signed the right to work bills into law Dec. 11.

Once they take affect early next year, Michigan will become the 24th right-to-work state in the United States.

During a news conference, Snyder said numerous times that the unions placing Proposal 2 on the November ballot, which would have enshrined collective bargaining rights in the state's Constitution, is largely what triggered this push for him to sign right-to-work legislation.

"This is a major day in Michigan's history," Snyder said.

Snyder dismissed the notion that he acted out of political pressure from the right wing of his party, saying he does not respond well to political pressure.

He signed the bills privately, just hours after the House approved the bills. He said he did so because the protesters outside the Capitol moved across the street to his office to protest and to urge him not to sign the bills.

Now, the protesters "can finish up and they can go home," Sndyer said.

That did not appear to have the desired effect, because as word came out during the news conference that he had signed the bills, the protesters came back out to shout outside his office.

Earlier in the day, the House approved House Bill 4003 and Senate Bill 116, which ban the practice of workers being forced to pay any money to a union as a condition of employment.

Following passage of the bills, the Capitol and Romney Building were flooded with protesters, and a wall of Michigan State Police officers formed in front of Gov. Rick Snyder's office. Tensions remained high nearly two hours after the vote on the second bill.

The push for these bills came rapidly and seemingly out of nowhere for most observers during this lame duck session. Snyder had repeatedly said for more than two years that right-to-work was "not on his agenda," but then Dec. 6 he said he wanted lawmakers to work fast and send him the bills. And 121 hours later, they had.

Shortly before the session began, the doors to the Capitol were locked as it had apparently reached its capacity of 2,000, but some protesters were being allowed in as others left.

Outside, the crowd was estimated to be as many as 10,000, as union members were chanting and holding signs.

During the debate on the floor, Democrats sought to remove the $1 million appropriation in the bills that make them referendum-proof by voters, but Republicans rejected the attempt.

Other Democratic amendments were also shot down. As several members spoke, those in the House gallery cheered them on and had to be reminded by the Speaker Pro Tempore they were not allowed to make any noise.

Democratic Rep. Jon Switalski urged Republicans to pause and take a step back, as the bills were fast tracked and moved onto the governor's desk without a public hearing.

"The next two years are going to be terrible," Switalksi said. "They are going to be ugly."

Democratic Rep. Douglas Geiss said there will be repercussions for passing these bills.

Chris Gautz writes for Crain's Detroit Business, a sister publication of Workforce Management. Comment below or email editors@workforce.com.

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