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Lansing UPDATES: 'Right-to-work' protestors back at Capitol

We're updating this post on the 'right-to-work' legislation moving through the Michigan Legislature.

'Right-to-work' laws, also known as 'anti-dues' laws, outlaw union contracts that stipulate that all workers must financially support the union in some way.

It's often confused with outlawing mandatory union membership.

Under federal law, mandatory union membership is already outlawed.

People can work in a 'union shop,' but not be a union member.

However, they are often required to support the union financially. The unions say these payments are necessary because their collective bargaining agreements benefit all workers.

Republicans in Michigan are on the verge of outlawing the practice of mandatory financial support of unions in 'union shops.'

Update 5:49 p.m.

Right-to-work is now the law in Michigan. Gov. Snyder said he signed the bills into law prior to the news conference.

5:40 p.m.

You can watch the news along with us.

Gov. Snyder is scheduled to speak with the media at 5:45 p.m.:


Watch live streaming video from snyderlive at livestream.com

5:30 p.m.

There are reports that Gov. Snyder is holding a media availability at 5:45 p.m.

Both SB 116 and HB 4003, the right-work-bills, are ready for his signature.

4:50 p.m

After a long day of protests in Lansing, the crowd, that at its peak was more than 10,000, continues to dissipate.

Activity that was centered at the Capitol earlier in the day as the right-to-work bills were passed by the Michigan House, moved over to where Gov. Snyder's office is located in the George Romney Building.

The protestors were seemingly following the path of the bills from the Legislature to the Governor's desk.

Gov. Snyder is expected to make 'right-to-work' the law in a state where the labor movement was born. It's a significant setback for organized labor, and one they promise to fight.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports that the Michigan State Police made three arrests today - all for disorderly conduct. And all three were arrested at the George Romney Building this afternoon.

4:00 p.m.

Crowds have dissipated at the Capitol. The action is over at the Romney Building (where the Governor's office is). The Detroit Free Press' Lori Higgins tweets that a rally will be held at 4 p.m.:

Announcement just made that there will be a rally at 4 pm featuring 96 yr old who participated in Flint sit-down

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports that union supporters are convinced Gov. Snyder will sign the legislation into law, so they're turning their sites on the 2014 election "to oust the Republican lawmakers who brought right-to-work to Michigan.

There are likely to be numerous challenges to the legislation in the coming years as well.

2:32 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody has been covering the protests all day. He reports that union workers blocked the entrance to the George Romney building, where the governor's office is located.

State police in riot gear waded in and are clearing the entrance.

1:53 p.m.

Activist Rev. Jesse Jackson is calling for a one-day strike in the wake of today's passage of the 'right-to-work' bills.

The Detroit Free Press reports protestors and police are moving to the Romney Building where the Governor's office is located.

Here's a Tweet from reporter David Jesse:

The troopers pushed and shoved a large crowd away from building, where Gov. Snyder's office is. I saw one older man get knocked to ground

1:33 p.m.

The second right-to-work bill has passed the Michigan House of Representatives.

SB 116 passed 58 to 52. The bill will go on to Gov. Snyder for his signature.

SB deals with right-to-work laws of private sector employees. Workers in a private workplace represented by a union would no longer be compelled by contract to support that union financially.

It's now up to Gov. Rick Snyder whether 'right-to-work' will become law in the state that is the birthplace of the labor movement.

He has given all indications that he will sign them into law.

1:26 p.m.

Debate continues in the Michigan House on SB 116 which was introduced and passed by the Michigan Senate last Thursday.

Rep. Mark Meadows (D-East Lansing) is pointing out that some are mis-characterizing the 'right-to-work' legislation as giving workers a right to choose whether they want to join a union or not.

The Taft-Hartley Act already outlaws that practice.

This outlaws the requirement that workers pay fees to unions in a workplace represented by a union. Democrats say it creates an unfair balance where some are paying for the benefits of collective bargaining and others are not.

This line of debate leads to....

"They are freeloading," from Democrats


"I'm outraged that you would call hard-working Americans free loaders!" from Republicans.

It plays out again and again in this debate.

House Speaker Jase Bolger expressed his 'outrage' at such 'freeloader' talk when he unveiled the legislation last Thursday.

Other Democrats are lamenting the fact that the legislation is being "rammed through" the lame-duck Legislature.

12:50 p.m.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports that things have calmed down a bit after Michigan State Police moved through the crowd on horseback. Union supporters are giving speeches through a loud sound system near the Capitol.

On Twitter, user Shawn Windsor writes:

Crowd thinning. Discourse more civil. Even as union protesters outnumber right-to-work supporters 100-to-1.

12:35 p.m.

An update outside the building. Hostilities appear to be rising. People are tweeting that UAW employees are blocking the doors of the Romney Building.

And State Rep. Dave Agema (R-Grandville) says he's enjoying the chaos. From Agema's Facebook page:

Riot police on horses are now macing and pushing back the crowds who tried to storm the building. I fell like I'm back in the military- I'm rather enjoying this. It brings back memories.

12:22 p.m.

SB 116 is now being taken up by the Michigan House of Representatives. The bill deals with 'right-to-work' laws for private employees.

HB 4003 was passed and is on its way to Gov. Snyder's desk.

Under HB 4003 state and local government workers would not be compelled to compensate a union for collective bargaining. However, HB 4003 stipulates that police and firefighters are still compelled to do so.

12:08 p.m.

The Michigan House has passed HB 4003, one of two 'right-to-work' bills before the House by a vote of 58-51. HB 4003 deals with 'right-to-work' laws for public employees.

Reporter Rob South of WLNS-TV posted this picture of how the votes went down:

The first right-to-work bill passes the House today (HB 4003). Here are the votes.
Credit Rob South / Facebook
The first right-to-work bill passes the House today (HB 4003). Here are the votes.

11:50 a.m.

Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody reports that police are in riot gear and seem to be forming a perimeter outside the Capitol.

Carmody says a tent of the Group "Americans for Prosperity," a group supporting right-to-work legislation, which was on the lawn of the Capitol, was destroyed by union supporters.

11:42 a.m.

Members in the House are trading barbs about the 'right-to-work' legislation.

Democrats are saying the middle class will leave Michigan. They say workers who benefit from collective bargaining, but who don't support that bargaining financially would be freeloading on the system.

Rep. Margaret O'Brien (R-Portage) said she was offended by the 'freeloader' talk. O'Brien said numerous independent studies have shown that 'right-to-work' legislation has led to improved economic output.

The jury is out on O'Brien's statement. To read more, see this post - Do right-to-work laws create jobs?

The problem, and this is one point where most researchers find consensus, is that given the myriad factors that could impact a state’s economy, isolating the effect of right-to-work can be problematic.

11:25 a.m.

Several Republicans making arguments for 'right-to-work' legislation. They now call it 'freedom to work.'

Rep Rick Olson (R-Saline) said he's supporting the legislation because it supports the principal of choice.

"I see it as tough love for our unions," said Olson. "The Big Three got soft in their competitiveness... In short, we see a place were unions can make their case, and workers can make a choice," said Rep. Olson.

10:51 a.m.

Democrats in the House are making impassioned pleas to the Legislature to not pass the bill.

"There will be blood," said Rep. Douglas Geiss (D-Taylor) referring to past union battles over union dues not being paid by others. "There's going to be fights. We've seen it in the past. Are we going to forget all that?"

Rep. Jon Switalski (D-Warren) asked the Legislature to "step back from the ledge."

Switalski said he's received tons of calls from constituents asking what "right-to-work" laws are in the first place. He said they don't know what the issue is, and the Legislature has not given people enough time to understand it.

"Is this relentless positive action?" Switalski asked. "The next two years are going to be ugly. I think we should pause and take a step back."

10:31 a.m.

House now taking up 'right-to-work' bill HB 4003. Rep Tim Greimel (D) trying to amend the bill so appropriations are removed. Bills with appropriations attached cannot be repealed by voter referendum.

Not surprisingly, Greimel's amendment was not adopted.

You can watch the proceedings on House TV. Or listen to it here.

10:13 a.m.

The Capitol in Lansing is closed as police say the crowd has reached capacity inside.

David Jesse of the Detroit Free Press tweets that the Michigan State Police estimates the crowd at 10,000 outside the Capitol.

Here's a bird's eye view:

And the the Detroit News reports on the protestors:

Hundreds streamed into the state Capitol at 7:30 a.m. when the Michigan State Police opened its doors to protesters who had been standing in line since as early as 5:30 a.m. The scene inside the Capitol is excitable, but mostly peaceful, almost festive, with much of the rotunda filled with red shirts. The dozens of Michigan State Police assigned to keep order inside the halls are greeting protesters as they enter the building. Hundreds of supporters of organized labor have filled each floor of the Capitol. Every so often, organizers stop yelling chants such as "this is what democracy looks like!" and pound on the rotunda banisters to collectively drum beat and cheer, causing the entire building to vibrate.

9:25 a.m.The streets around the Capitol are closed to traffic, and protestors have entered the Capitol.

The State House is expected to pass two bills this morning that will send so-called 'right-to-work' bills to the Gov. Snyder's desk.

Michigan State Police say there are no plans to close the Capitol, but they may limit the number of people in the building.

Here's some video from inside the Capitol:


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.
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