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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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REDFORD, Mich. – President Obama weighed in on the labor battle involving “right-to-work” during a stop in Redford, MI Monday.

The President delivered his remarks to a large crowd at the “Daimler” Detroit Diesel plant. He had planned to address the looming fiscal cliff, but the topic quickly shifted to “right-to-work” legislation currently making its way through the Michigan State House.

“These so-called “right to work” laws, they don’t have to do with economics; they have everything to do with politics,” said President Obama. “What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money.”

The President also discussed taxing the wealthiest Americans as one way to solve the fiscal cliff. He also announced a $120 million dollar investment by Daimler that will result in 115 jobs at the Redford plant.

Currently, “right-to-work” legislation has been passed in both the Michigan House and Senate. A final vote is expected as early as Tuesday. Governor Snyder has said he will  sign the bills when they hit his desk.

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Union members and activists are scheduled to gather for a silent protest at Calder Plaza at noon on Monday.

It’s all part of a statewide effort to reject right to work legislation which was passed through the Michigan House and Michigan Senate on Thursday.

The legislation was approved without any public hearings or debate. The senate and house bills must be reconciled.

Remarks will follow the silent protest, where activists will have their mouths taped.

LANSING, Mich. – The State House and State Senate were not in session on Friday but there were still a lot of State Police patrolling both the Capitol Building and Governor Rick Snyder’s office inside the Romney Building.

Police were there in response to a third day of protests centering around the right-to-work legislation .

Police inside the Romney Building were guarding the entrance around 3:30 Friday afternoon.  Police wouldn’t allow FOX 17 or the protesters past the front lobby or anywhere near the governor’s office.

Protesters who oppose the right-to-work bill stood outside the Capitol Building with signs showing their disgust with this piece of legislation.

If passed, the right-to-work bill would not require an employee to join a union or pay union dues as a condition of employment.

Two different versions of this bill passed both the house and senate on Thursday night.

Despite the fact the Governor has said he will sign a right-to-work bill, demonstrators still want their voices heard.

Nick Ottney moved his family to Michigan because it wasn’t a right-to-work state.  He said he is now worried for his family’s future in Michigan.

“We just walked in the (Romney) building and asked to see him (Governor Rick Snyder).  They sent down a representative who basically said they can take any questions to the governor but we were not able to get an audience with him today.”

Ottney said he’s not sure if the governor will listen at this point.

“Honestly no, probably not,” said Ottney.  “I think the mind was made up probably for a long time.”

The house and senate are scheduled to meet again on Tuesday.  In order for the right-to-work bill to become law, the house and senate must pass a single piece of legislation before the governor gets a chance to sign it into law.

Among other concerns, union workers in Michigan fear lower wages are ahead if the governor signs ‘right-to-work’ into law.

However, what’s happened in Indiana under the law? What were the immediate effects?

FOX 17 turned to business expert Gerry Dick for answers. He’s with “Inside Indiana Business” and has years of experience covering business in the state.

“When Indiana became the 23rd ‘right-to-work’ state in February of this year, there really were no immediate effects. Other than the fact that tensions between organized labor and business organizations like the Indiana chamber of commerce became even more inflamed,” Dick explained.

“It’s a very controversial issue in our state. The lines were very clearly drawn between organized labor and business. I think over time any impact from ‘right-to-work’ legislation will be felt in the coming months and years,” he added.

Michigan democrats say legislation was rushed through. What was the case for Indiana?

“‘Right-to-work’ legislation has been talked about, has been discussed here in the state of Indiana for a number of years. It was brought up in the last session of the Indiana legislature and dropped it. It was not pursued at that time,” Dick explained.

“House republicans and republican leadership including Governor Mitch Daniels, made the indication early on in the session that would be pursued, there were committee hearings and things that took place. So relatively speaking, it went through in an expeditious manner but committee hearings and the process did take place over a couple of weeks,” he continued.

Have more companies relocated to Indiana since ‘right-to-work’ passed? Have worker wages dropped as some fear?

“A few companies have cited ‘right-to-work’ as a reason, one of the reasons they located here, in making their announcements, but in terms of other things like wages and those types of things and the impact, it will be a number of years in my opinion before that really plays itself out,” Dick explained.

LANSING, Mich. – Both the Michigan State House and State Senate have passed its own versions of the right-to-work bill.

Late Thursday night protesters who had been in and out of the State Capitol all day learned of the vote and started chanting, “Shame on you.”

“I’m sad,” said Lynn Mason, a retired teacher from Belding.  “It’s a sad day for Michigan.”

The thoughts of Mason sum up the way most of the protesters at the Capitol felt after learning both the State House and State Senate voted in favor of a right-to-work bill.

Mason said, “I watched people testify and make really good arguments and it seemed like their voices weren’t heard.”

If signed into law, the right-to-work bill will no longer require workers to pay union dues or become part of a union as a condition of employment, with the exception of police and firefighters unions.

Early Thursday, Governor Rick Snyder and republican leadership laid out where they stand on right-to-work.

“I’m asking that we pass an act that calls for workplace fairness and equity.  To be pro-worker and give freedom of choice to our workplace,” Governor Snyder said.

Shortly after the governor’s announcement, crowds started to gather inside the Capitol.

State Police said they were forced to defend themselves with pepper spray after a few member of crowd charged officers.

Damien Nelson. a carpenter union member, said he was on the front line and saw things differently.

“They are just voicing their opinions, their concerns,” Nelson said of the people who were pepper sprayed.  “This is terrible.  It’s disgusting.”

A total of eight people were arrested.  Police then closed the Capitol for hours claiming it was over capacity.

Crowds then took to the lawn chanting, “Let us in.”  It was clear they did not want to be left out in the cold.

Then a lawyer from the American Civil Liberties Union hand delivered a court order from an Ingham County Judge to State Police, clearing the path for the protesters to come back in the building.

Julie Monetta, a school teacher from Holland, had just arrived at the Capitol from a full day at school.

Monetta go there just in time to see both the State House and State Senate pass different versions of the bill.

“They are very deliberately pushing this very quickly.  And I think the people of Michigan will really regret it when… if and when it goes through,” said Monetta.

The senate and house will now have to come to an agreement on a single bill before it can make its way to Governor Snyder’s desk.

LANSING, Mich. – After a day of protests the right-to-work bill passes the Michigan State House and State Senate.

This means that workers will now have the choice to join a union or pay union dues at a place of employment instead of being required to as the previous legislature dictated.

The bill passed the Michigan State House by a vote of 58 to 52.

LANSING, Mich. – A small business advocate is supporting the right-to-work bill, and have been looking for this for a while.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), a large advocate for Michigan’s small business owners says the right-to-work bill will let employees decide whether they was to join a union, which would encourage the expansion of small businesses within the state.

“Small business owners have waited years for this reform and they are geared up for the fight,” said Charlie Owens, State Director of NFIB.

According to the NFIB, The right-to-work law would help the economic situation of small business owners throughout Michigan. “The current law doesn’t give them a choice and it forces private small businesses to act as dues collectors for the unions that often work against their economic interest,” said Owens.


LANSING, Mich. – The American Civil Liberties Union is filing suit to have the Michigan Capitol building reopened.

Earlier today, the Capitol building was closed to citizens by legislators in response to the protestors who are against the right-to-work bill.

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed suit to reopen the Mich. Capitol building.

Senate Democrat’s secretary says they are in full support of the ACLU’s lawsuit to have the Capitol reopened.

According to the Michigan State Police, the reason the building is still closed is the large crowd that is still outside the Senate chamber.

LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan House Democrats are disappointed in the House Republicans, but say they are standing firm to protect the middle class.

According to a statement by the Mich. House Deomocratic Caucus, “House Democrats are disappointed in the tactics that the House Republicans are employing at this time with access to the floor. The House Democrats are standing firm when it comes to protecting the middle class families in Michigan.”

House Democrats also say Republicans don’t have the interests of all Michigan residents in mind. “Governor Snyder and Legislative Republicans would rather cave into special interests and institute Washington DC style politics by pushing the toxic and divisive partisan wish list of the extremists within their own party than create jobs or fight for fair wages and benefits for ALL residents.”

Tune in to FOX 17 News at Five for more updates on the right-to-work protest in Lansing.