right to work

Rick Pluta / MPRN

Shouting and chanting demonstrators have filled the rotunda of the state Capitol to oppose the possibility of Michigan becoming a 'right-to-work' state.

Rumors swirled that the Legislature is about to take up legislation to make Michigan a right-to-work state.

Right-to-work laws limit the power of labor unions.

These state laws can ban contracts that compel employees to join a union, or that compel them to pay fees to that union. Without some type of compulsory payment or membership requirements, unions lose a lot of their power.

Those opposing these kinds of laws call them "right-to-work-for-less" laws.

Some say they’re concerned that Governor Rick Snyder appears to have edged closer to accepting the idea of right-to-work.

He still has not endorsed a measure, and no bill has been formally introduced in the state Legislature.

As we've reported earlier, the bill could take many forms:

It could be a sweeping measure that covers every workplace. It could only cover public employee unions. It could do that, but exempt police officers and firefighters.

No one has yet formally introduced a bill. Republican state Representative Mike Shirkey said he’d like to, but is mum on details.

“We’re going to let the legislative process run its course, and I’m optimistic. You’re not going to get anything more than that from me, sir,” said Shirkey.

Democrats in Lansing are outnumbered by Republicans. But they promise to put up a fight if the Legislature takes up a right-to-work bill.

State Representative Tim Greimel is the new leader of the Michigan House Democrats. He says Democrats will use every legal means possible to stop a right-to-work bill.

“We’re not going to cooperate on issues that are important to the governor, that he needs our votes on, as long as he’s pushing this extremist right-wing agenda that would cut wages and benefits for Michigan’s middle class and working families,” said Greimel.

Ari Adler is the press secretary for state House Republicans.

“It would be unfortunate for the House Democrats and for the people of Michigan if they decided to become a one-issue caucus if they refused to work with Republicans on anything else because of a disagreement one particular issue,” said Adler.

Tea party groups were also at the Capitol to push the Legislature’s Republican majorities to adopt a right-to-work bill before the end of the lame duck session.

*This post has been updated

screenshot / YouTube

After an onslaught of TV and radio ads this election season, Michigan residents could be forgiven for hoping they had seen the last of political spots for a while.

But the ads are back.

A group calling itself the Michigan Freedom Fund is now running television and radio ads in support of rumored "right-to-work" legislation.

The nonprofit advocacy group is being run by Greg McNeilly, an employee of Dick DeVos’ investment firm Windquest Group, MLive reports.

McNeilly was campaign manager for Devos during his gubernatorial campaign and served as executive director of the Michigan Republican Party.

The Free Press reports that one of the first TV spots aired last night in the Detroit area.

Here is a look at the ad:

cncphotos / flickr

This week in Michigan politics revolves around what bills might be passed during the remaining weeks of the lame duck session. Morning Edition host Christina Shockley and Michigan Radio's political analyst Jack Lessnberry  talked about the possibility of passing an education overhaul and a right-to-work bill.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Gov. Rick Snyder says right-to-work bill is now up for discussion

Governor Rick Snyder met with Republican legislative leaders yesterday about a right-to-work bill. Afterwards he said it is on the agenda - at least for discussion - but he wouldn't say whether legislation would be taken up by year's end. A right to work bill would limit unions' ability to collect fees from nonunion workers. The Detroit Free Press reports,

"Snyder, choosing his words carefully, said the issue has been "highlighted" so much in recent weeks -- mostly by business leaders and Republicans -- that it found a place on the Capitol agenda. While not saying he is personally pushing the effort, the governor did say that there are ramifications to the decision by labor leaders to proceed against his urgings with an unsuccessful ballot initiative last month that would have enshrined collective bargaining rights in the state constitution."

Red Wings and Detroit Tigers owner has plans for new district in Downtown Detroit

"Officials from the Mike Ilitch Organization have outlined plans for a new district in Downtown Detroit featuring shopping, apartments, offices and entertainment -- including a new home for the Red Wings. Ilitch owns the Detroit Tigers and Red Wings.  A state Senate committee yesterday approved changes Tuesday to the Detroit Downtown Development Authority to help pay for the $650 million project," Michigan Radio reports.

Legislation would make recall elections tougher

"A Michigan House panel has approved legislation that would tighten language related to recall elections and restrict the time period in which people can be voted out of office. One bill would amend a section of state election law to limit recall elections to the two election dates set annually in May and November. Another would require that reasons for the recall are stated 'factually and clearly'. The current petition is reviewed for 'sufficient clarity.' Another proposed change calls for a challenger to compete for the office against the official up for recall," the AP reports.

dannybirchall / flickr

The question hanging over the state Capitol is whether the Legislature will take up a so-called “right-to-work” bill during its lame duck session.

Activists on both sides of the issue showed up in force to lobby lawmakers.      

A growing chorus of conservatives says this is the moment for Michigan to join 23 other states that have enacted laws to end the closed shop and allow workers to opt out of paying union dues.

Scott Hagerstrom is with the group Americans for Prosperity, one of the champions of right-to-work.

Rick Pluta / MPRN

Activists on both sides of the issue are lobbying Lansing lawmakers over a so-called “right-to-work” bill that could be introduced in the lame duck session.

Tea party activists and union supporters crowded into the halls of the Capitol Tuesday as Republican leaders held talks on whether to take up legislation that would end the closed shop and allow workers to opt out of paying union dues.

Governor Rick Snyder says the issue is not on his agenda – but won’t say what he would do if a bill reaches his desk.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Mayors and local officials voice oppose changes to gun laws

"Mayors and other local officials were at the state Capitol Monday to oppose a rewrite some of Michigan’s gun laws. Specifically, they are asking the Legislature to continue to require people who buy pistols from private owners to get a state background check and a license. Background checks are already required by federal law when people buy from dealers. Law enforcement officials say the state’s licensed pistol registry helps them solve crimes and return stolen guns. But supporters of the legislation say the state makes it too difficult for people to legally buy firearms to for self defense," Rick Pluta reports.

Judge dismisses lawsuit over Asian Carp

A federal judge in Chicago dismissed a lawsuit Monday filed by five Great Lake states over threats posed by Asian carp. The states want barriers placed in Chicago-area waterways to prevent Asian carp from invading the Great Lakes. The Detroit Free Press reports,

"U.S. District Judge John Tharp said he couldn’t order the agencies to do what the states want because federal law requires the corps to keep shipping channels open between Lake Michigan and one of the Chicago waterways -- the Des Plaines River -- and prohibits constructing dams in any navigable waterway without Congress’ consent."

GOP want right-to-work legislation before year's end

GOP lawmakers on Monday focused their efforts to pass right-to-work legislation before the year's end. The Detroit News reports,

"The chamber is pushing for the legislation in response to Indiana becoming a right-to-work state in February and Michigan voters' defeat last month of the union-backed Proposition 2. The initiative aimed to enshrine collective bargaining rights in the Michigan Constitution in an attempt to block a right-to-work law. . . Right-to-work laws seek to ban "union security" clauses in collective bargaining agreements that require employees who don't want to join a union to pay an agency fee — sometimes up to 95 percent of monthly union dues — or be subject to termination by the employer."

Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

The Legislature is wrapping up the first week of its “lame duck” session with lots of things to do – but everyone is wondering if Republicans intend to put “right-to-work” legislation on their end-of-the-year to-do list.

The halls and lobbies of the Capitol were packed with union members urging the Legislature to not take up a right-to-work bill in the “lame duck” session.

Additional State Police troopers were called in as a precaution.

Governor Rick Snyder said he would rather see lawmakers focus on things other than right-to-work.

Before we get down to pure-politics this week, we want to first take a moment to remember former Michigan First Lady Helen Milliken, who just passed away. She was married to Michigan’s longest-serving governor, Bill Milliken, thus, making Ms. Milliken the state’s longest serving first lady. She was not a woman content to simply stand in the shadow of her husband’s accomplishments. She was part of that generation of first ladies, embodied also by Betty Ford, who made it clear that even though they were married to their husbands, they had their own opinions, their own causes, and their own accomplishments.

First Lady Milliken was an advocate for the arts, for environmental causes, feminism and abortion rights. She was an ardent enough activist in her own right that when Michigan environmentalists wanted to recognize environmental activism they named it the Helen and William Milliken Distinguished Service Award. She exerted some influence in making those Bill Milliken’s priorities, as well, even though at times it put both of them at odds with the more-conservative elements of the Republican Party.

And, interestingly enough, this brings us to the current Republican administration. There are some tensions between Snyder-Republicans and the right wing of the Republican Party, especially the Tea Party. The Tea Party continues to send the message that it is not planning on going away, that it’s going to continue to push Republicans in the most-conservative direction possible. And we’re really seeing this play out with two particular issues right now in Michigan: health insurance exchanges and right to work.

The politics of the Exchanges

The health insurance exchanges are the online marketplaces where people and small businesses will shop for health insurance under Obamacare. Like Orbitz or Travelocity, but for health insurance. Basically, Michigan has three options: a state-run exchange, a federally run exchange, or some type of hybrid. Governor Snyder and a lot of business groups wanted a state exchange. But, all year-long, state House Republicans kept saying, “No, not yet.”

First House Republicans wanted to wait for the U.S. Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. When that didn’t go the way they wanted, they said the state should wait for the November election and see who’s elected president, with the idea that if Governor Romney was elected, then Obamacare would be repealed and the health insurance exchanges would be a moot point. But, as we know, that didn’t go the way they wanted either. And, now, they’re still dragging their feet, saying they still have more questions.

There’s no doubt that the Michigan labor movement badly blundered by spending millions in its failed effort to get a constitutional amendment protecting collective bargaining on the ballot this year. The amendment went down to a stunning defeat.

Worse, as could have been predicted, the labor movement’s enemies in the legislature are now calling for the enactment of a so-called right to work law, which would outlaw the union shop.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Snyder says Prop 2 is not a referendum on right-to-work laws

"Governor Rick Snyder says if voters reject Proposal 2, that would not be an invitation to pass a right-to-work law in Michigan. Proposal 2 would guarantee collective bargaining rights in the state constitution, and call into question many of the state’s labor laws. Governor Snyder is urging a “no” vote on the proposal, but he has also asked the Legislature to stay away from right-to-work because it’s so controversial. Right-to-work laws forbid compulsory union membership as a condition of employment," Rick Pluta reports.

Political signs can now be displayed in bars

"Michigan bars and restaurants that serve alcohol can now add political signs to their décor. Since 1954 the Michigan Liquor Control Commission has had a rule that businesses with state liquor licenses could not post signs endorsing political candidates. Last week an Ann Arbor bar along with the ACLU filed suit challenging the ban," Steve Carmody reports.

Voting rights group will be on call on Election Day

"The Michigan Center for Election Law says it will be on call on Election Day. Volunteers will staff a hotline that voters can call if they experience problems casting a ballot. The phone number will be on yard signs outside most precincts. A member of the group says during the primary, some people called the hotline because clerks told them they couldn't vote without I.D. State law allows people to vote without I.D. if they fill out an affidavit," Tracy Samilton reports.

As you probably know, a Titanic battle has been going on for years now over whether to build a new bridge over the Detroit River.

On one side is Governor Rick Snyder, the government of Canada, Ford, Chrysler and General Motors, and the chambers of commerce. On the other side, Matty Moroun’s family, the owners of the Ambassador Bridge, who right now have a monopoly on moving billions in heavy automotive components from Detroit to Ontario.

The Moroun family, that is, together with those who support their position because of their money.

Michigan voters next month are going to be asked to decide the fate of five proposed amendments to the state constitution, plus whether they want to keep the Emergency Manager law. Some of the amendments have gotten a lot of publicity, like the one that would require a statewide vote before any new bridge could be constructed.

The amendment that would guarantee collective bargaining rights is getting attention, as is the one that would require utilities to get 25 percent of their energy from renewable sources.

There are five proposed constitutional amendments on the state ballot this fall, and at this point, it is impossible to predict whether any of them will pass or fail.

But I do think I know which will provoke the most spending: Proposal Two, the amendment that would make collective bargaining a state constitutional right. Unions are going to spend millions to try to get it passed. Chambers of commerce and corporate interests are likely to spend even more to try to make sure it fails. This is seen to some extent as a Battle of Stalingrad for the union movement.

Five million Michigan voters will go to the polls two months from today. When they are handed their ballots and walk into the voting booth, they will face six ticking time bombs.

I’m talking about the ballot proposals. Yesterday, the State Supreme Court ended a legal battle by ordering three more proposed constitutional amendments on to the ballot. They’ve already put two others there, plus a referendum on the emergency manager law.

user wasted time R / wikimedia commons

Playing politics with the ballot: conflicts of interest for Michigan's Board of State Canvassers

A second potential conflict of interest has appeared on the Board of State Canvassers. That’s the bipartisan state panel that approves petitions and decides whether questions will go on the statewide ballot.

In both cases, the panel members have business or employment interests in the issues put in front of them. They’re big, too, and controversial – a potential challenge to Michigan’s emergency manager law and a preemptive strike at “right-to-work” legislation.

Matthileo / Flickr

Michigan is the 31st state to allow motorcyclists to ride without helmets. Gov. Rick Snyder signed the bill to lift the requirement on riders 21 years and older last night. But signing the repeal was not necessarily something the Governor wanted to to.

"This is one of those issues that the Governor says is, 'not on my agenda,' which is Snyder short-hand for, 'I don't want to deal with this,'" explains Rick Pluta, Lansing Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network and co-host of It's Just Politics.

Why'd he do it?

So, the Governor's signing of the repeal raises the question: if it wasn't on his agenda, why did he sign it?

"I talked to [the Governor's] office," Pluta explains, "and his thinking about this evolved. He said at first that it wasn't on his agenda and then, if he was going to do it, he wanted it to be in the context of a overhaul of the state's auto-insurance laws - there has been no overhaul - but, the Governor still signed it. His office says that this [signing] recognizes that he has a partnership with the Republican Legislature, and that this is something, clearly, a majority of the House and Senate wanted."

Did the Governor blink?

This, however, raises another question: did the Governor blink? Meaning, do Republican lawmakers now know, with the signing of this bill, that just because the Governor says an issue is "not on his agenda" that he will, eventually, support it if it's sent to his desk.

For example, there's been a lot of inside-political talk about whether Governor Snyder would, if the state House and Senate passed such a measure, sign right-to-work legislation.

Governor Snyder’s spokeswoman has said that 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.

But there are Republicans, such as Representative Mike Shirkey, who disagree with the Governor and believe that now is the time to introduce right-to-work legislation. One has to wonder: will Governor Snyder's signing of the helmet-law repeal embolden certain Republican lawmakers to introduce legislation that they know Governor Snyder doesn't support?

A Balancing Act

"It speaks to the balancing act that [Governor Snyder] is engaged in," Pluta notes. "On the one hand, he's trying to get the Legislature to buy into his priorities - priorities that Conservatives and Tea Partiers in the Legislature in particular are not enthusiastic about. And, he gets to say, 'maybe it wasn't on my agenda but I respected your priorities - now, you can respect mine.' Or, is it the other way around? Does this fuel this idea that the Legislature can send something to the Governor that's not on his agenda and he's more likely than not to simply accept it," Pluta says.

It's Just Politics

"It's a motorcycle story," Pluta explains, "that is the next chapter in the saga of how the Governor relates to a Legislature that is not always on the same page as him."

Going for Broke

Mar 7, 2012

For weeks, I heard rumors that a coalition of unions were going to try to get a state constitutional amendment on the ballot to prevent the legislature from making Michigan a so-called "right-to-work" state. That is, one where workers could no longer be required to join or pay dues to a union. Well, the unions revealed their proposal yesterday.

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.

A campaign to keep Michigan legislators from enacting a "right-to-work" law is holding a rally tomorrow in Lansing. The "Protect Our Jobs campaign" is hoping to put a constitutional amendment proposal on the November ballot that would "protect collective bargaining rights."

If passed, a "Right to Work" law would allow workers individually to opt out of paying union dues.

Workers in union represented workplaces in Michigan today are required by law to pay dues.

They can opt out of the union, but they still have to pay "an agency fee." As Michigan Radio's Lester Graham reported, "that fee covers the cost of the union’s collective bargaining and grievance handling processes."

From the Protect Our Jobs campaign's press release:

Working men and women from across Michigan will gather at the state Capitol in Lansing tomorrow to formally launch the “Protect Our Jobs” campaign. Grassroots volunteers will begin gathering signatures tomorrow to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot to protect collective bargaining rights, and strengthen the middle class.

Here's more from MPRN's Rick Pluta:

A ballot drive will launch tomorrow to try to guarantee collective bargaining rights in the state constitution.

The so-called Protect Our Jobs campaign will be run by a coalition of unions and progressive political groups. The campaign wants to put a question on the November ballot asking voters to approve an amendment to the state constitution.

The amendment would preempt about 80 measures pending before the Legislature that would restrict union organizing, dues collections, and how political donations are collected. It would also block efforts to enact a right-to-work law in Michigan.

The campaign would have until July 9th to collect more 323,000 signatures of registered voters to make its goal of qualifying for the November ballot.

Organizers also hope the question would help boost turnout by Democratic voters in the election.

United Auto Workers President Bob King says a coalition of unions will push for an amendment to the Michigan Constitution that bars so-called "right-to-work" legislation outlawing contracts that require employees to join unions.

Republicans who control the state Legislature have been pushing for a law that would ban labor agreements with mandatory union dues. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has said the issue is not a priority for his administration.

King told about 1,000 people at the UAW's national convention in Washington on Thursday that a union coalition will push for a November ballot issue protecting the right to have union shops.

The Detroit News reports King says unions agreed on the drive at a meeting Wednesday. He says they'll seek 500,000 signatures, about twice what's needed.

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Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney made a couple campaign stops in southeast Michigan before traveling to Arizona for a debate with the other Republican candidates. Romney told people at a town-hall-style meeting in Shelby Township that the federal government is not working for Michiganders.

“We know what it takes to get Washington to work so that America can work, so that Michigan can work, so that people here can have confidence that the promise of America – and that is hard work and education – will be the promise of prosperity and security, that that promise is one that we will live and we will fulfill, and I’ll get that job done if I’m your president,” said Romney.

Romney also weighed in on Michigan’s ongoing debate over compulsory union membership.

“My view is, every person in America ought to have the right to choose whether to join the union or not, so I’m in favor of Right-to-Work legislation,” Romney said.

Governor Rick Snyder – who endorsed Romney – says he thinks the right-to-work debate is divisive and he has no interest in pushing right-to-work legislation in the near future.

Protestors outside the Indiana Capitol building when the "right-to-work" legislation passed earlier this year.
screen grab from video / The Statehouse File

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Indiana is the first Rust Belt state to enact the contentious right-to-work labor law prohibiting labor contracts that require workers to pay union representation fees, after Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels signed the bill Wednesday afternoon.

The Senate approved the measure a few hours earlier Wednesday, following weeks of discord that saw House Democrats boycott the Legislature and thousands of protesters gather at the Statehouse.

Michigan House Democrats website.

So called right-to-work laws prohibit workers from being required to join a union or pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment. But with Indiana’s recent passage of right-to work laws, some Republican lawmakers say there is additional pressure on the state to pass its own legislation. 

Democrat and House Minority Leader, Representative Rick Hammel is against right-to-work legislation. He spoke with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White.

user "Dmitri" Beljan / Flickr

Some Republicans in the Michigan House want to give workers in union shops the option not to pay union dues. Unions in the state say that’s something that they’d “take to the streets” to fight. 

But not all union members agree.

Terry Bowman works at a Ford plant in Ypsilanti. He’s a member of the United Auto Workers.

He calls himself a 'union conservative.'

Michigan Municipal League

Right-to-work laws prohibit workers from being required to join a union or pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.

Indiana’s legislature has passed a “right-to-work" bill. It now goes to that state’s governor and he’s expected to sign the bill into law.

Some Michigan lawmakers say this puts additional pressure on the Michigan legislature to pass its own version of these laws.

gophouse.org

CORRECTION - An earlier version of this story stated that Right To Work legislation had already been introduced in the Michigan House. It has not. Representative Shirkey plans to introduce the legislation soon.

 

Right-to-work laws would prohibit workers from being required to join a union or pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.

Republican Rep. Mike Shirkey plans to introduce right-to-work legislation in the House.

Governor Rick Snyder has no interest in attempting to make Michigan a "right-to-work" state, which means one where it is illegal for employers to sign labor contracts requiring their workers to pay union dues. But some Republicans in the legislature disagree, and may try to get a right-to-work bill passed this year.

There’s also the possibility of trying to put something on the November ballot, a constitutional amendment, perhaps, that would outlaw the union shop in this state. It’s unclear whether there is really going to be any serious effort to make that happen.

Michigan AFL-CIO website.

Governor Rick Snyder presents his second state of the state speech Wednesday night.

While the governor has expressed reluctance to pursue a right to work agenda, which would get rid of compulsory union dues, others in Republican leadership still express a desire to pursue that agenda.

Michigan AFL-CIO president, Karla Swift spoke with Michigan Radio's Jennifer White in advance of Gov. Snyder's State of the State address.

Swift said the AFL-CIO should be in Lansing "at the table with all of the stake holders in planning the future for Michigan."

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce hopes the legislature will pass several pro-business laws before election year politics starts throwing obstacles in the way this year.   

Rich Studley is the president of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. He said there’s probably only a small window before this year’s elections start affecting the ability of the legislature and the governor to get any work done.   

"We believe that between now and the May filing deadline …between now and the end of May and the start of June…there are five months that the legislature and the governor can still work on key issues," said Studley.    

The chamber is pushing for the elimination of Michigan’s ‘personal property tax’ and would like to streamline environmental and other regulations.    

The state’s largest business industry group is also encouraging the governor to move ahead with plans to build a new bridge between Detroit and Windsor, even  if he has to do it without the legislature’s approval.  

One major issue not on the state Chamber of Commerce’s agenda is ‘Right to Work’. Chamber officials say their members have not reached a consensus on the issue.  More than 20 states prohibit agreements between employers and unions that require workers to join the union or pay union dues.

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