Unions and progressive groups have launched a ballot drive as a push back against what they say is a wave of anti-labor measures from Republicans in Lansing.
The campaign wants to put a proposed amendment to the state constitution on the November ballot.
It would prohibit Michigan from becoming a "right-to-work" state that allows employees to opt out of paying union dues. It would also pre-empt a host of other laws that would restrict union organizing and fundraising.
Jeff Bean, a teacher’s union member from Flint, said union rights helped build the middle class.
"A strong middle class is the backbone, especially here in Michigan, but I would say nationwide – of our economy, of our process, of our culture, so I think it’s something that deserves a constitutional amendment for that reason," said Bean.
Opponents of the ballot drive said it’s motivated more by a desire of union leaders to drive voter turnout in November than to guarantee workers’ rights.
Governor Rick Snyder’s spokeswoman says a fierce debate over "right-to-work" and other labor issues won’t help Michigan rebuild its economy.
The governor has said he hopes the Legislature will put off a measure that would outlaw compulsory union membership or dues to hold a job.
The governor’s spokeswoman, Geralyn Lasher, said Gov. Snyder is equally skeptical of a ballot drive to guarantee union organizing rights in the state constitution.
"The 'right-to-work' issue, everything about that is so divisive, it’s not something Michigan needs to be focused on right now. We have so many other things that we can work on cooperatively. We’ve seen a lot of success with collective bargaining. We want to continue to move forward. We don’t really see a lot of positives from this battle on either side of the issue," said Wurfel.
Union and progressive groups launched the ballot drive today.
They have until July 9 to collect enough signatures of registered voters to qualify for the November ballot.