right to work

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

We're updating this post on the 'right-to-work' legislation moving through the Michigan Legislature.

'Right-to-work' laws, also known as 'anti-dues' laws, outlaw union contracts that stipulate that all workers must financially support the union in some way.

It's often confused with outlawing mandatory union membership.

Under federal law, mandatory union membership is already outlawed.

People can work in a 'union shop,' but not be a union member.

Stateside: A shift in public opinion of right-to-work

Dec 11, 2012
Rick Pluta/MPRN

As right-to-work gains momentum, supporters of the legislation claim Michigan’s public opinion is in favor of the bill.

EPIC-MRA has tracked the public’s opinion of right-to-work since June 2007. During that time there was indeed 62% majority opinion in favor of the bill. But Bernie Porn of EPIC-MRA recently found that the opinion is drastically different than that of 2007.

NBCnews.com / MNA Facebook page

With Michigan poised to become the country’s 24th so-called "right-to-work" state, thousands of protestors have flooded the State Capital today to demonstrate against the legislation. Michigan Radio's Jennifer White talks with Katie Oppenheim, a registered nurse, and president of the University of Michigan Nurses Union. Oppenheim is also affiliated with the Michigan Nurses Association.

Jake Neher / MPRN

Governor Rick Snyder will have the final say as to whether Michigan will become a so-called “right-to-work” state.

The state House approved legislation Tuesday that would end the practice of requiring workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

Representative Tim Greimel is the new leader of the state House Democrats. He said the fight over “right-to-work” is not over.

Stateside: UAW President Bob King addresses right-to-work

Dec 11, 2012

Protestors swarm the Capitol as right-to-work rapidly moves through the Legislature.

Among the chanting men and women is UAW President Bob King.

Today he spoke with Cyndy about the problems he sees in right-to-work.

"Right-to-work is trying to undermine unions' ability to serve their members. It isn't good for companies. It's a huge mistake," said King.

He addressed various percentages of union participation.

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.

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