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Right-To-Work: Controversial Bills Passed and Signed In Lansing

The issue of right-to-work has become the primary issue getting attention in Lansing.

With Republicans holding the governor’s office and control of both houses of the legislature, it was expected that some form of right-to -ork bill would be proposed, even during the lame duck 2012 session.

In simple terms, right-to-work bills around the country have prohibited the common practice of requiring the establishment of union shops, where all workers are required to be members of unions if a business has a union agreement. Non-union workers are usually still required to pay dues to a union of there is a collective bargaining agreement. Right-to-work would ban such practices.

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Silent Protests Planned Against Right-To-Work Law

LANSING, Mich — A group named We Are Michigan is sponsoring a number of silent protests around Michigan Wednesday.

The protests are in response to the passage and signing of right-to-work bills in Lansing. The group calls the bills “right-to-work-for-less.”

The demonstrations are scheduled for many major Michigan cities:

  • Grand Rapids: Republican headquarters, 725 Lake Michigan Drive, 11:30 a.m.
  • Kalamazoo: Bronson Park, 290 South Rose Street, 11 a.m.
  • Lansing: The roundabout at Michigan Avenue at Washington Square, one block east of the Capitol, 11 a.m.
  • Detroit: Office of Urban Affairs, Cadillac Place, 3044 W. Grand Blvd, 11 a.m.
  • Saginaw: City Hall, 1315 South Washington Avenue, 11:00 a.m.
  • Marquette: Governor Snyder’s Office, 244 Baraga Street, 3 p.m.

We Are Michigan describes itself on its website as “a coalition of faith, community, labor and progressive groups united by a common commitment to strengthening Michigan’s middle class.”

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.- Paul Helder, president of the Grand Rapids Education Association, spent Tuesday in Lansing in the middle of all of the right-to-work chaos. When he returned to West Michigan, he shared his thoughts about Governor Rick Snyder signing it into law.

“I think the first question: ‘Is it going to stand up?’” Helder said. “I know there are a host of legal challenges that are expected. the fact that they carved out police and fire, two groups that sometimes support Republicans with their political donations makes it suspect. Republicans have already lost one fight like this in District Court.”

But he also is aware that it very well could be a reality.

“It says the union has to continue providing these expensive services for people but they can choose not to pay, but then somebody else in the union has to pay,” Helder said. “So it creates a parasitic kind of situation where some individuals will then kind of essentially live off of their colleagues.”

On the flip side, president of West Michigan Policy Forum, Jared Rodriguez said right-to-work will be good for Michigan. “Freedom to work … is something we’ve been advocating for since 2008 when our grassroots forum of over 600 individuals told us that this was the strategic priority for Michigan to help keep our state moving forward.”

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – How did right-to-work get through Michigan’s legislative process in just a week?

There were a couple of things that happened to circumvent the hearings and comment periods you might find in what some would consider a normal bill.

First, political experts believe the lawmakers devised a strategy to find a “vehicle bill” to move right-to-work through quickly. Strategists say the second big factor in this vote was term limits: some lawmakers won’t have to face voters about their decision and so, in theory, they don’t care what may happen to them after their vote Tuesday.

The strategy for passing right-to-work was likely hatched weeks ago, says Devin Schindler at Cooley Law School.  “I know for a fact the Republicans have been talking about this for years, not just weeks,” says Schindler.

Right-to-work opponents note that there were no committee meetings or public hearings which typically take place when bills are considered. Schindler says that’s because the bill’s supporters used a practice allowed by Michigan law in a lame duck year. “(It’s) very common that we see these highly controversial bills get pushed through during the lame duck session.”

Schindler and other law professors say the strategy works like this. Lawmakers decided to use a number of “vehicle bills” with much different content. Those bills had already been read and had their public hearing. They took the bills and stripped out the old language, then drastically re-wrote them, adding the right-to-work language. They bypassed the public hearing process, because the bills were already read before the right-to-work language was added.

Schindler says it’s a clever strategy.

“In light of the fact that it’s a lame duck session over the holiday season, the media glare tends to be a little less. In addition, we have a number of Republican lawmakers who either did not win reelection or who are not going to run again. (They) no longer have to worry about the political fallout for voting for this bill.”

Jon Hoadley of Kalamazoo, who works with the lobbying group, Main Street Strategies, says there are 57 lawmakers who voted on the legislation that will not have to face public accountability for their vote because they are term-limited, lost their elections, or are retiring. House Democratic Floor Leader Kate Segal of Battle Creek says 25 percent of the lawmakers voting Tuesday won’t be back in January.

Schindler says that if citizens are as unhappy as the protesters were Tuesday, they won’t be able to vote out the law through a referendum, because the lawmakers attached a million dollar appropriation to it which blocks the people from doing that.

Although that won’t be able to use a referendum, those who oppose the bill can try to amend the state constitution through a public vote. “Michiganders can always amend the constitution,” says Shindler. “Nothing stops the amendment process from occurring.”

In November, voters turned down a constitutional amendment that guaranteed collective bargaining rights.

LANSING, Mich. – Gov. Rick Snyder has signed right-to-work into law Tuesday, Michigan now the 24th state to adopt similar legislation.

The Michigan House of Representatives voted 58-52 earlier Tuesday to approve the second of two right-to-work bills. They made their way to Gov. Snyder.

Protests continue outside the Capitol building Tuesday. Michigan State Police (MSP) is on standby as incidents continue to escalate. MSP report about five protesters were arrested earlier Tuesday.

Gov. Rick Snyder held a press conference Tuesday at 5:45 p.m. to discuss the legislation, “I think it was a good thing to sign this legislation and moving forward I’m very excited to see the outcome from that,” Snyder said.

He answered questions presented by media outlets at the Tuesday meeting.

“This is  a major day in Michigan’s history and I don’t view this as anti-union, I believe this is pro-worker.”

Gov. Snyder says he signed the bill so the protesters of right-to-work can go home. He said the bill didn’t pop out of the blue, but Proposition 2 moved forward and got onto the ballot.

The bill will go into effect about 90 days after the current legislative session ends at the end of December. Union contracts will need to be re-built when contracts expire, workers will now have the choice to continue with the union.

Gov. Snyder believes the legislation will make unions more accountable and responsive.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (FOX 17) – As protesters rallied outside, democrats in the State House were speaking out on the floor against the right-to-work legislation before its vote by members of the state house.

Democratic State Representative Barb Byrum of Onondaga said the current legislation is absolute evidence that absolute power corrupts absolutely.  “This is not the Michigan I grew up in,” said Byrum.

Democratic State Representative David Rutledge of Yipsilanti said the process was not done openly and he expressed his disappointment in the methods used. “I believe in procedures.  I believe in the laws of this body.  I believe in the committee process…I object,” said Rutledge. “I could not even walk through those doors up there to visit to somebody I saw in the galley. Something’s wrong in this process Mr. Speaker.  If this is so great, why do we choose this fashion in order to do it?”

Democratic State Representative of Lincoln Park, Paul Clemente said his district was a moderate district but he was troubled by the legislation. “The concern I have today is we are losing something.  It’s moderation.  Be assured, outside this chamber, minds are being changed today,” said Clemente.

“I expect things in Lansing to be different.  This process is supposed to be built on fairness, equality and justice. This bill has not had a single hearing. Twenty-five percent of this group that will is voting will not be back in January.  Why are we trying to ram it through without public insight and transparency?” Democratic State Representative of Battle Creek Kate Segal said.


State Trooper Uses Spray On Protester

A protester told FOX 17 reporter Darren Cunningham that someone was “tear-gassed” outside the Michigan Capitol during protests Tuesday.

Michigan State Police confirmed on Twitter that a state trooper used OC spray, a form of pepper spray, on one person.

Protesters marched on the Capitol in Lansing as final votes on controversial right-to-work legislation were scheduled for Tuesday morning.

Police were expecting up to 10,000 protesters, including both union opponents and right-to-work defenders.

Scuffles broke out when a tent came down.

The Republican-controlled legislature was expected to pass a final version of the bill Tuesday and to send the bill to Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, which he is expected to sign.

The legislation would stop unions from collecting dues from all of the employees in the workplace if they decide they don’t want to pay them.  At one time, Snyder had said that the policies adopted by Republicans in other states were too divisive here in Michigan.  However, a legislation began passing in a very short amount of time that the governor then decided to support last week.

House members spoke from the floor of the chamber in support of and against the legislation. Democrats protested that right-to-work was being rammed through a lame-duck legislature and that no public debate was allowed. Republicans said employees should not be forced to join or contribute to unions as a condition of employment.

Republicans attached money onto the legislation so that it cannot be overturned by referendum. Opponents say there are some options and can use a citizens initiative to put the issue to a public vote perhaps as early as 2014.

President Obama spoke against the bill Monday during a trip to the Detroit area. He said the bill would lower wages for workers in the state.

Lawmakers and Michigan State Police are preparing for thousands of right-to-work protesters Tuesday.

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.