right to work

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan lawmakers are set to reconvene today for what could be the final votes on right-to-work legislation.

If passed, Michigan would become the 24th right-to-work state, banning unions from collecting mandatory fees from nonunion workers.

Governor Rick Snyder says he will sign the legislation.

He called into Morning Edition this morning to talk about the issue.

david_shane / flickr

Dozens of State Police have gathered in a hallway in the Capitol’s lower level, cordoned off by blue curtains. This is their base of operations in the building this week as hundreds – maybe thousands - of protesters are expected to fill the upper levels.

In one closet, police have stashed helmets and other riot gear.

Capitol Facilities Director Steve Benkovsky hopes the demonstrations will stay peaceful.

"Everybody has a right to come in here and voice their opinion. And we'll deal with it the best we can and let them voice their opinion," said Benkovsky.

State and local police plan to close a number of streets around the state Capitol.

They will also limit the number of people allowed in the building.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Right to work legislation expected to be sent to Snyder

"The state House is expected to send legislation to Governor Rick Snyder today that would make Michigan the 24th so-called “right-to-work” state. Democrats are preparing a last-ditch effort to try and stall progress on the bills. Meanwhile, police officers from across the state are in Lansing preparing for protests as lawmakers get ready to vote on so-called “right-to-work” bills," the Michigan Public Radio Network reports.

President Obama talks fiscal cliff and right to work in Michigan

"President Obama talked about the controversy in Lansing, Michigan as well as the one in Washington, D.C. during his visit to a Redford Township engine plant yesterday. He told a crowd of hundreds of union workers that the consequences of going over the fiscal cliff are huge, both for the economy and the middle class. President Obama says he will insist that Americans making more than $250-thousand a year pay more taxes. He also rebuked state Republicans for pushing so-called "right to work" bills that would let people opt out of paying union dues.  He says such laws bring down middle class wages," Tracy Samilton reports.

State Treasurer initiates review of Detroit's finances

"Detroit’s march toward a state-appointed emergency financial manager appeared to speed up yesterday. The city’s financial advisory board voted to support the state treasurer’s move to start the process. It can last up to 30 days. Officials told the advisory board Detroit is burning through cash at an alarming speed. They project that without help, the city will end the fiscal year more than 100-million dollars in the hole," Sarah Cwiek reports.

Ifmuth / Flickr

At the state Capitol, Democrats are preparing their last-ditch effort to slow or stop legislation that would make Michigan the 24th so-called “right-to-work” state.

Republicans in the state House are expected to send the legislation to Governor Rick Snyder Tuesday.

Thousands of demonstrators are expected to turn out at the Capitol.

screen grab / WDIV

In a speech Monday in front of employees from Redford Township’s Detroit Diesel engine factory, President Barack Obama weighed in on Michigan’s impending right-to-work legislation.

About halfway through the President’s address, intended to promote his plan for averting the fiscal cliff, Obama took up the issue of right-to-work, the Detroit Free Press Reports:

Rick Pluta/MPRN

One thing I know about politically polarizing issues: arguing for middle-of-the-road positions alienates a lot of folks.

But here goes anyway.

I don’t love unions.

And I feel I can say that with some authority, given that as an employee of several media companies, I’ve been a member of three of them.

In every case, I felt unions were so concerned about protecting territory, that they were, at times, anti-progressive, and too often in the business of preserving their power.

I couldn’t touch equipment.

I was prevented from developing technical skills I would have been wise to learn.

Later in my career, when I worked at non-union shops, I was glad that, if I wanted to try something new, I could.

Now, that may seem like a funny way for me to argue that right-to-work laws are a bad idea, but that’s where I’m going with this.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan Radio’s senior political analyst Jack Lessenberry and Detroit News’s Daniel Howes discussed the implications of right-to-work in Michigan.

According to Howes, the right-to-work legislation is representative of the country’s current political divide.

“I view this in the context of the reckoning that is going on in Michigan in terms of its trying to come to terms with its post-war industrial past. The UAW has become dramatically weaker, dramatically smaller. This is indicative of the political divide we’re seeing in our country,” said Howes.

Jeffrey Simms Photography / Flickr

Calling the fast-moving 'right-to-work' legislation moving through the Michigan Legislature a "Michigan cliff," the Democratic members of Congress said they urged Gov. Snyder to put a stop to it.

The Democratic Michigan delegation, including Sen. Carl Levin, and Reps. John Dingell, John Conyers, and Sander Levin, and other members of the delegation attended the meeting with Snyder.

They held an hour-long private meeting with him about the 'right-to-work' legislation this morning.

The Legislature is expected to vote tomorrow on the legislation.

Michigan Sen. Carl Levin said the delegation was blunt with the Governor in their urging to veto the bill.

"We're not sure he understood how these unions worked," said Levin during a press call with reporters after the meeting.

Gov. Snyder has said the 'right-to-work' issue is about workers freedom to choose.

"I believe most Michiganders and most Americans believe [that workers should] have the ability to choose whether they want to belong to an organization or not." Snyder said during an interview with Paul Egan of the Detroit Free Press last week.

"That is absolutely false," said Rep. Sander Levin (D) on the call with reporters. "There is no requirement that people join a union."

Union membership is not a requirement in a 'union shop.' But all workers do have to support the union financially.

Sen. Levin said he pointed out to Gov. Snyder that unions are required to provide equal benefits to everyone in the workplace, even though not all employees are required to join the union.

"The governor said it incorrectly. And today, I don't think he understands what it is really about," said Rep. Levin.

Members of the Democratic Michigan delegation described their meeting with Gov. Snyder as 'intense.'

There’s no doubt that turning Michigan into a right to work state will strike a major, and potentially even fatal, blow to unions.

Nor is there any doubt that the way that this was done was profoundly anti-democratic. Ramming a hugely significant bill through both houses on a single day is essentially unheard of.

Afterwards, State Senator Steve Bieda told me: “We’ve had more deliberative hearings on something like a commemorative license plate.” The Republicans also added some appropriations money, structuring this bill so that voters cannot attempt to collect signatures to put a repeal on the ballot.

What happened is a disaster for labor, however you slice it, and I cannot imagine anything that will prevent the governor from signing this into law. However, this could be -- just could be -- a blessing for the labor movement, even though it looks like anything but.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

State House and Senate likely to vote on "right to work" Tuesday

"It’s likely that the state House and Senate will take up their final votes on so-called “right to work” legislation tomorrow. But, first, protests and legal actions are expected today and tomorrow. Republican majorities in the Michigan House and Senate have already voted once to adopt a “right-to-work” law. Democrats and labor unions plan more protests over the bills that were placed on a very fast track last week. If enacted, Michigan would become the 24th state to adopt a “right-to-work” law," Rick Pluta reports.

President Obama to speak about "fiscal cliff" at suburban Detroit auto plant today

"President Obama will visit a Redford Township factory today - as part of his effort to galvanize support for his plan to avert the fiscal cliff.  The President's visit also comes at a high stakes time for the United Auto Workers, since state Republicans could vote to make Michigan a so-called "right to work" state this week," Tracy Samilton reports.

Detroit could get an emergency financial manager

"A committee overseeing Detroit's finances could recommend an emergency financial manager for the state's largest city. The committee meets today to begin a 30-to-40 day review. Detroit mayor, Dave Bing will ask City Council tomorrow to approve audits, including an audit of disability fraud. And he wants the council to approve another 400 to 500 job cuts, along with furloughs, as the city faces the prospect of running out of cash," Tracy Samilton reports.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

There’s plenty of drama expected this week in Lansing as Republicans in the Legislature appear ready to send to Governor Rick Snyder bills that would make Michigan a so-called “right-to-work” state.

The next chapter in this drama will open this morning with a conference call between a judge and the litigants in a lawsuit that’s trying to stop or at least slow down the “right-to-work” momentum in Lansing.

Union activist Robert Davis filed the lawsuit late last week against the state House of Representatives. He wants the judge to rule the Legislature violated the state’s open meetings law last Thursday when it continued to meet and vote as the Capitol was closed for several hours to keep out demonstrators.

White House

President Obama will visit a Redford Township factory today - as part of his effort to galvanize support for his plan to avert the fiscal cliff.

The President's visit also comes at a high stakes time for the United Auto Workers.

The Republican-controlled state legislature is poised to vote tomorrow on bills to make Michigan, the birthplace of the UAW,  a so called right to work state.   That would mean workers in unionized facilities like Detroit Diesel in Redford could opt out of paying union dues.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Downtown Lansing is preparing for another big protest day at the state capitol tomorrow.   

The impact could be bigger than last week’s protest against so called "Right to Work" legislation.

Organizers expect several thousand union members and their supporters will descend on Lansing on Tuesday.   Its part of a protest against the legislature’s expected votes on Right to Work bills.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Opponents of so called "Right to Work" legislation labored over the weekend to attack what they see as an assault on unions.

We Are Michigan, a coalition of unions and related groups, held a news conference Sunday featuring small business owners who oppose the Right to Work legislation expected to pass the Michigan legislature this week.

Unions complain the legislation would weaken organized labor in Michigan.

Chris Jordan runs an insurance company and is a union member.    He says Right to Work laws will hurt small businesses and Michigan’s middle class.

What a week it was.

Shouting and chanting filled the halls and rotunda of the State Capitol building on Thursday as Right to Work bills made their way into the state House and Senate. And, more protests are likely this week as the Legislature will take what are likely the final votes to send this so-called “right to work”-  or “freedom to work” bills as they’re known to some supporters and “right to work for less” if you’re on the union side – to the governor’s desk.

And Snyder will almost certainly sign them. This week, within the space of 72 hours, right-to-work went from “not on my agenda” to “on THE agenda” to Governor Snyder embracing the issue… even after months – years, really – of saying he didn’t want to take up such a divisive issue.

Here at It’s Just Politics, we’re wondering if it’s about time that the phrase “not on my agenda” has to be retired. The Governor has used the “not on my agenda” phrase before – over the issue of repealing the motorcycle helmet law and domestic partner benefits – and, yet, when these issues actually reach his desk: he signs them.

So, the question this week is: what changed in the Governor’s mind? What made him give-in? Was it simply a matter of inevitability? Right-to-work had just kind of taken on a life of its own after voters knocked down Proposal Two and a lot of interest groups were arguing that that could be interpreted as a referendum on “right-to-work” by Michigan voters; some Republican lawmakers took it as a sign that now was the time to try and introduce the issue. Maybe the governor just had to make the best deal he could once it became clear he was getting a right-to-work bill no matter what.

It certainly makes his life less complicated vis a vis a potential Republican primary in 2014. But it does complicate his general election prospects when this will almost certainly be used against him.

Rick Pluta/MPRN

Supporters and opponents of so-called “right-to-work” legislation are preparing for the coming week – and Tuesday’s expected votes by Republicans to send the bills to Governor Rick Snyder.

If you were writing a novel about politics, you couldn’t make this up. Last month a Democratic President was re-elected, easily carrying Michigan by almost half a million votes.

The same day, the state’s voters reelected a liberal Democratic Senator by almost a million votes, and Democrats gained seats in the legislature. Exactly one month to the day later, this same state passed laws destroying the union shop, and making Michigan a right to work state.

Did I think I would ever see this in my lifetime? Absolutely not. But then, I never counted on a black president, General Motors going bankrupt, or Pontiac going out of business.

We live in momentous times. And in the Michigan legislature, last week was a time of lawmaking at breathtaking speed. If there has ever been a lame-duck session anything like this one, I certainly don’t know about it.

Do right-to-work laws create jobs?

Dec 7, 2012
Scania Group / flickr

Putting aside for a second the backroom dealing, the protesters, the pepper spray and questions about the structural integrity of the state Capitol building, now might be a good time to address one of the fundamental question surrounding right-to-work legislation.

Do right-to-work laws create more jobs?

Governor Snyder says they do, pointing to Indiana as a recent example of right-to-work success.

user cedarbenddrive / Flickr

Yesterday, lawmakers in Michigan did something unusual.

They moved fast.

In one day, three brand new 'right-to-work' bills saw the light of day, and were passed by both the Republican-controlled State House and Senate.

It was a process that would've made this guy's head spin:

Briefly, here's what happened yesterday:

11:00 a.m. - Gov. Snyder and Republican leaders unveil their intentions to enact a right- to-work law at a press conference.

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Gov. Rick Snyder's 'not on my agenda' talk seemed to keep right-to-work legislation at bay, continually saying the issue was too divisive.

He had a change of heart yesterday.

Now, Michigan is on the fast-track to becoming the 24th state to adopt a right-to-work law.

Right-to-work laws ban requirements to pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of employment. Without compulsory payments in a closed union shop, unions stand to lose a lot of muscle.

The Detroit Free Press reports that the UAW's Bob King and other labor leaders tried to stop the legislation prior to yesterday's vote:

UAW President Bob King spent a lot of time in Lansing in recent days trying to prevent Gov. Rick Snyder and the Republican leadership from introducing right-to-work legislation but came up short.

“Labor collectively felt like we put some really important proposals on the table about how we could work together … and about how can we de-escalate partisanship,” King told the Free Press today. “We are really disappointed that the governor and the Republican leadership chose the path that they did.”

In a separate piece, the Free Press reports that Snyder said the labor leaders didn't do enough, but he didn't provide specifics.

We can say this much about what happened with the right to work bills yesterday. This wasn’t a case of all deliberate speed.

Instead, it was a matter of ramming right to work through both houses of the legislature within a matter of hours.

When we ate breakfast, nobody was sure whether Governor Snyder would support right to work. By lunch time, he had come out for it, and before I ate a late dinner, both houses had passed bills blowing apart the labor-management dynamic as we know it.

Legally, these bills can’t finally become law until the middle of next week. They won’t take effect until April Fool’s Day. But barring divine intervention, nothing is going to stop Michigan from taking the once unimaginable step of outlawing the union shop. The lawmakers opposed to unions put a lot of thought into planning just how they would do this. They clearly thought it was essential to do this now, during the lame duck session.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Three right-to-work bills approved

Three right-to-work bills moved forward at the state capitol Thursday. The bills would prohibit unions from collecting fees from nonunion workers. The Michigan House voted to approve right-to-work legislation (HB 4054) for private-sector workers. The Senate passed two right-to-work bills. A measure dealing with private-sector workers (SB 116) passed on a 22-16 vote Thursday after hours of impassioned debate. Moments after it passed, the Senate passed a bill (HB 4003) with similar provisions for government employees. Democrats walked out before the bill was approved on a 22-4 vote. To clarify where these bills came from, the Lansing State Journal reports,

According to legislative records, HB 4054 had been dormant since it was introduced in January 2011, until it was suddenly reported out of committee on Wednesday. SB 116 also had no action since February 2011 before it was brought forward Thursday. House Bill 4003, which the Senate also took up, had had no action for one year prior to Thursday. today.

In other lame duck news. . .

EMERGENCY MANAGER LAW GOES TO HOUSE

"A Michigan House panel has moved a replacement to the state’s Emergency Manager law to the House floor. Voters rejected Public Act Four last month. The replacement would give local governments and school districts more options. They could request an emergency manager. They could reach a consent agreement with the state. They could agree to mediation to construct a recovery plan. Or they could file for municipal bankruptcy," Jake Neher reports

ABORTION BILLS PASS IN SENATE

"The state Senate has passed a bill that bans insurance companies in Michigan from providing coverage for elective abortions. The Senate also approved another bill  to require clinics that do abortions to be licensed as outpatient surgical centers. Both bills now move to the House," Tracy Samilton reports

BILL TO DENY HEALTH COVERAGE FOR RELIGIOUS REASONS PASSES IN SENATE

"A bill in the state Legislature would let health care providers, facilities, or insurers deny service based on religious, moral or ethical objections. The state Senate passed the bill Thursday. The measure would not apply to emergency situations, and providers would have to let patients know where they can go for treatment. It now goes to the state House," Jake Neher reports.

screenshot / LiveStream

We're updating this post on the legislature's effort to pass a 'right-to-work' law in Michigan.

A right-to-work law would outlaw requirements that workers pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. Unions say these laws weaken their ability to bargain collectively with employers. Supporters of the law say it gives workers a choice.

Update 7:50 p.m.

Economists cast doubt about Right to Work benefits

Dec 6, 2012
dannybirchall / flickr

A number of other mid-west states have already passed Right to Work laws .   Some Economists say proponents may be misleading the public about the positive effects of Michigan’s Right to Work.

Manufacturing jobs are about 15 percent of the United States economy and that's the job segment Right to Work focuses on.  That’s according to Dr. Gordon Lafer, Economics Professor at the University of Oregon. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Governor Rick Snyder and leaders of the Republican led state House and Senate announced plans to introduce so called “Right to Work” legislation today. While police and firefighters are excluded from the legislation, it would prohibit contracts that require union membership and ban the requirement that union dues be paid for all other public and private workers. Clearly, this marks a major shift in direction for the state of Michigan.  Michigan Radio’s political analyst Jack Lessenberry gives us a historical perspective.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Passions grew hot inside the state capitol building in Lansing as lawmakers debated "Right-to-Work" legislation.    Those passions also spilled into Lansing’s streets.

Hundreds of union members and their supporters spent much of the day milling around the state capitol grounds, unable to get into the building itself and unwilling to leave.

Stateside: The politics behind right-to-work

Dec 6, 2012
user "Dmitri" Beljan / Flickr

Governor Snyder announced today that right-to-work bills will be placed in the state’s Legislature.

This means that union membership would be voluntary in Michigan.

"Stateside with Cynthia Canty" Executive Producer Zoe Clark and MPRN’s Rick Pluta discussed the politics behind this issue.

Here is what they had to say:

Rick Pluta / MPRN

Update 12:16 p.m.

During a press conference this morning, Michigan Gov. Snyder dramatically changed course on 'right-to-work' legislation in Michigan.

He has continually said that the legislation was 'not on his agenda' this year because it was too divisive.

But today, he said right-to-work is on his agenda and he will sign a bill if it lands on his desk.

"It is a divisive issue. It's on the table, whether I want it to be there or not," Snyder said during the this morning's press conference.

The 'right-to-work' bills are expected to be introduced in the Legislature today. MIRS reports the bills will cover public sector workers and private sector workers.

Police and fire workers will be excluded.

The bills are expected to move quickly.

They are also expected to have appropriations attached to them, making voter repeal impossible.

10:42 a.m.

The Michigan Information Research Service reports the Michigan House and Senate plan to use 'vehicle bills' to move their 'right-to-work' legislation faster.

Vehicle bills are bills that have already been introduced into a legislative body into which language can be added. It allows legislators to move the legislation through the chambers faster than introducing a new bill.

MIRS reports their sources tell them the 'right-to-work' legislation Republican leaders plan to introduce today will cover both private and public workers.

We'll find out soon enough.

10:12 a.m.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Republican leaders in the state Legislature are expected to unveil their plans for so-called 'right-to-work' legislation at an 11 a.m. news conference this morning.

You can watch the 'media roundtable' live at 11:00 a.m. online.

From the Detroit Free Press:

Snyder is to be joined at the news conference, described as a “media roundtable,” by Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville and House Speaker Jase Bolger.

Details were not disclosed, but right-to-work legislation is expected to begin moving in the Legislature today. Rather than introducing a new bill, which under the rules of the Legislature would take longer to pass, lawmakers are expected to introduce a substitute for a House bill that is already in the legislative pipeline.

Right-to-work laws are often called "right-to-work-for less" laws by those who oppose the measures.

The laws ban contracts that compel employees to join a union, or that compel them to pay fees to that union. Without these payments, unions lose their power.

Union supporters say workers not paying into the pool still reap the benefits of collectively bargained contracts, such as better pay, benefits, or working conditions.

The news conference has ended.

Here's the news conference with Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and Republican legislative leaders. They're unveiling their plans for 'right-to-work' legislation:

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

New emergency manager bill to be rolled out today

A new version of a local  government emergency manager bill will be rolled out today at the state Capitol. It would replace the emergency manager law that was rejected last month by voters, Rick Pluta reports. Under this new version, local governments deemed to be  in a fiscal crisis would have four options:

1. They could reach a consent agreement with the state.

2. They could agree to mediation to come up with a plan to meet the crisis.

3. They could request a state-appointed emergency manager.

4. They could go into Chapter Nine municipal bankruptcy. Under this measure, the state would pick up more of the costs of emergency managers.

Judge rules emergency financial manager law still in effect

"An Ingham County judge has dismissed a legal challenge to Michigan’s controversial Emergency Financial Manager law.  Under the law the governor can appoint a manager to run cities and school districts in ‘financial stress’.  The old law had been repealed when a new law was passed in 2011 giving Emergency Managers broader powers. An Ingham County judge ruled yesterday that the old law went back into effect when the new, tougher law was suspended.  The ruling means the work of Emergency Financial Managers in a handful of Michigan cities and school districts can continue," Steve Carmody reports.

GOP will continue to push for right-to-work even in 2013

Republicans are hoping a right-to-work bill will be passed in the remaining weeks of the lame duck session. Demonstrators gathered in Lansing yesterday to voice opposition against the idea of Michigan becoming the 24th  right-to-work state. But as MLive reports, if a right-to-work bill is not taken up in this session, advocates will put more pressure on the issue in the New Year.

"Advocates pressuring the GOP-controlled Legislature to act now have let it be known they will gather petitions for a voter-initiated right-to-work initiative if nothing is done. If more than 258,000 valid signatures are collected, the House and Senate would have 40 days to enact the law."
 

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