A near riot broke out at the Michigan state capitol building in Lansing yesterday when the GOP House and Senate passed right to work legislation.
Enraged union activists scuffled with police but to no avail. With backing from Governor Rick Snyder, Republicans put a big dent in union power in the state.
In an audacious flex of political muscle, Republicans in a single day reached the brink of a goal that for years has seemed an all-but-impossible dream: making the labor bastion of Michigan a right-to-work state.
The GOP majority used its superior numbers and backing from Gov. Rick Snyder to ramrod legislation through the House and Senate on Thursday, brushing aside denunciations and walkouts by helpless Democrats and cries of outrage from union activists who swarmed the state Capitol hallways and grounds. At one point, police used pepper spray to subdue demonstrators who tried to rush the Senate chamber.
"Shame! Shame on you!" protesters chorused from the gallery as the Senate voted. Earlier, security guards removed a man who yelled, "Heil Hitler! Heil Hitler! That's what you people are." Another shouted, "We will remember in November."
Rules require a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other's bills, which would prohibit making payment of union fees a condition of employment. They are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday, when Michigan could become the 24th state with right-to-work laws if the measures are quickly enacted and Snyder signs them, as he has pledged to do.
A victory in Michigan, a cradle of organized labor, would give the right-to-work movement its strongest foothold yet in the Rust Belt, where the 2010 election and tea party movement produced assertive Republican majorities that have dealt unions one body blow after another.
But compared with Indiana and Wisconsin, where votes to curb union rights followed weeks or months of pitched battles, Michigan acted in the blink of an eye. GOP legislative leaders were saying as late as Wednesday that it was uncertain whether the issue would come up in a lame-duck session moving toward adjournment. Snyder had said repeatedly since his election two years ago that the topic was divisive and not on his agenda.
Right to work laws do nothing to curtail the freedom of people to organize a union. It does nothing to interfere in union contracts already negotiated. All the law does is remove the coercive nature of union membership and frees workers to join a union or not at their own discretion.
Anti-union? The measure is pro-worker and, as has been shown in other right to work states, creates a better climate for business creation which means more jobs.
How that can be considered anti-worker is a mystery.