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Demonstrators in Michigan's Capitol protesting 'right-to-work' talk

Rick Pluta

Shouting and chanting demonstrators have filled the rotunda of the state Capitol to oppose the possibility of Michigan becoming a 'right-to-work' state.

Rumors swirled that the Legislature is about to take up legislation to make Michigan a right-to-work state.

Right-to-work laws limit the power of labor unions.

These state laws can ban contracts that compel employees to join a union, or that compel them to pay fees to that union. Without some type of compulsory payment or membership requirements, unions lose a lot of their power.

Those opposing these kinds of laws call them "right-to-work-for-less" laws.

Some say they’re concerned that Governor Rick Snyder appears to have edged closer to accepting the idea of right-to-work.

He still has not endorsed a measure, and no bill has been formally introduced in the state Legislature.

As we've reported earlier, the bill could take many forms:

It could be a sweeping measure that covers every workplace. It could only cover public employee unions. It could do that, but exempt police officers and firefighters. No one has yet formally introduced a bill. Republican state Representative Mike Shirkey said he’d like to, but is mum on details. “We’re going to let the legislative process run its course, and I’m optimistic. You’re not going to get anything more than that from me, sir,” said Shirkey.

Democrats in Lansing are outnumbered by Republicans. But they promise to put up a fight if the Legislature takes up a right-to-work bill.

State Representative Tim Greimel is the new leader of the Michigan House Democrats. He says Democrats will use every legal means possible to stop a right-to-work bill.

“We’re not going to cooperate on issues that are important to the governor, that he needs our votes on, as long as he’s pushing this extremist right-wing agenda that would cut wages and benefits for Michigan’s middle class and working families,” said Greimel.

Ari Adler is the press secretary for state House Republicans.

“It would be unfortunate for the House Democrats and for the people of Michigan if they decided to become a one-issue caucus if they refused to work with Republicans on anything else because of a disagreement one particular issue,” said Adler.

Tea party groups were also at the Capitol to push the Legislature’s Republican majorities to adopt a right-to-work bill before the end of the lame duck session.

*This post has been updated

Mark Brush was the station's Digital Media Director. He succumbed to a year-long battle with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer, in March 2018. He was 49 years old.
Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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