Michigan union vote: 'Right to work' misleads

Michigan's Right-To-Work Legislation Draws Large P
Union members from around the country rally at the Michigan State Capitol to protest a vote on union membership legislation Dec. 11, 2012 in Lansing, Mich. Republicans control the Michigan House of Representatives, and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has said he will sign the bill if it is passed. The new law would make requiring financial support of a union as a condition of employment illegal.
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Associated Press

LANSING, Mich. (AP) -- Here are five things to know about right-to-work legislation moving through the Michigan Legislature:


It isn't about a right to work but rather a right for workers to choose whether they want to join a union or pay fees similar to union dues. The legislation prohibits what are known as "closed shops," where workers have no choice but to join a union.


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. Rules require a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other's bills; lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday, and Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law.


Supporters, including Republican leaders in the Legislature and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, insist it's about freedom of association for workers and a better business climate. Critics, including Democrats and Michigan's sizable labor contingent, contend the real intent is to bleed unions of money and bargaining power and allow nonunion workers to get the perks without paying for it. Thousands have come to protest at the Michigan Capitol _ and a massive crowd is expected to return on Tuesday _ but nobody sees a realistic shot at preventing it from passing and being signed into law.


Michigan would become the 24th state with such laws. And victory in the Great Lakes State would give the right-to-work movement its strongest foothold yet in the Rust Belt region, where organized labor already has suffered several body blows. Republicans in Indiana and Wisconsin recently pushed through legislation curbing union rights, sparking long, massive protests.


Law enforcement officials vow Michigan won't become "another Wisconsin," where demonstrators occupied the state Capitol around the clock for nearly three weeks. They've taken steps to prevent that.

Last Thursday, eight people were arrested -- and a few of them pepper-sprayed -- after authorities say they disobeyed orders and tried to rush past two state troopers and into the Senate chamber. Out of concerns for the safety of people and the historic building, authorities said, they temporarily closed the building and kept hundreds outside. A judge later ordered it reopened.

They plan to be mindful of the need to keep "the people's house" open if at all possible but keep a close eye on areas that are becoming overcrowded and close them off if necessary. They also will step up police presence as the crowd grows.

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