Orange barrels, some barricades and caution tape are set up in preparation for what could be a very animated day at the capitol Tuesday. Michigan State Police are preparing for as many as 10,000 people who may go there in protest to make their voices heard about Right to Work legislation. Monday a protest was organized in Grand Rapids. “Hey, he. Ho ho. Right to work has got to go,” chanted the workers who were marching against the legislation.
Protestors walked from Caulder Plaza to the Amway Grand Hotel and other buildings associated with Dick De Vos just after noon. At the Amway Grand Hotel, they were met with resistance from hotel security and employees who looked on, blocking the door. Protestors said they were targeting the De Vos buildings because they say Dick De Vos has been using his money to support the Right to Work commercials that have been running on TV.
Hotel employees called police who asked protestors to stop chanting, citing a city noise ordinance. “Don’t block the doorway,” said police. “They don’t want you in there. That’s their right as well.”
“They won’t let us talk out here, chant outside or in front the Amway Grand,” said Brent Gillette, a representative for the Heath Service Employees International Union
“There’s an ordinance that says you can’t gather together and chant and sing. I wondered what they do about Christmas carolers,” says Carmaleta Empey, a health care worker from Muskegon.
Protestors put tape over their mouths and marched in silence, symbolizing that their voices had been silenced. We were able to speak with those in the protest group away from the hotel.
“I actually worked for 26-years for a non-union organization. I did the same job as men and they got paid more and I knew it and there was nothing I could do,” says Empey
Empey marched Monday because she says the new legislation is putting equal pay for women in jeopardy. “My whole take on this right to work it’s really a slap in the face to women. Already they’ve proven in non-union shops women get paid less. This will have us get paid even less,” said Empey. “I mean women should be appalled.”
Meanwhile, supporters of Right to Work are pushing back. We spoke with Dick De Vos’ spokesperson Greg McNeilly. He says, “Dick Continues to View this as a social justice issue. He’s fighting for people to have the freedom to not join a union.” McNeilly says the television ads are being run by the Freedom Fund. He said Dick De Vos is not an official or unofficial member, but wouldn’t comment on whether or not De Vos had donated money to that fund. He said the Freedom Fund doesn’t disclose their donor list.
One local Republican we talked to from northern Kent County said he’s excited to make history by voting for the legislation Tuesday. “It’s going to be something we realize two, five, ten years from now. That is what made Michigan that top ten state,” said Rep. Peter MacGregor a Republican from Rockford.
Empey plans to keep fighting. “At least now as a member of a union working at a hospital, equal pay for equal work. it’s just fair and that’s why I’m out there. It’s fair. Don’t take that away from me again,” says Empey.
A bus full of protestors will be leaving from The Kent-Ionia Labor Council at 918 Benjamin Ave. NE, Grand Rapids on Tuesday at 8:00 AM, bound for Lansing.
“They haven’t done any type of public notice, any type of public debate on these issues that they’re coming into and we’re talking about Right to Work and some of the other anti-worker legislation,” says Gillette. ‘They’re not talking to us, they’re passing these things supposedly on our behalf, bit with no regards to our voice or our opinion.”
Republicans say the final version of the legislation is expected to be voted on tomorrow and it’s expected the governor will sign the legislation into law.