Michigan is America’s 24th right-to-work state after Gov. Rick Snyder signed legislation Tuesday night making it illegal for a worker to have to pay finances to a labor union as an employment condition.
The new law affects all public and private employees, excluding police and firefighters.
“We are moving forward on the topic of workplace fairness and equality,” Snyder said in a news conference.
Snyder had previously pushed right-to-work talks to the side, but last Thursday he announced he would sign right-to-work legislation should it reach his desk. Legislation was then fast-tracked by state Republicans before reaching his desk today.
“This is a major day in Michigan’s history,” Snyder said.”I don’t view this as anti-union at all. I view this as pro-worker.”
Debate over the bills inside the chambers was heated and lasted for roughly three hours. Democrats said a right-to-work law would eventually decrease the state’s quality of life as union power decreases and blasted Republicans for taking up the legislation so quickly.
“For such a significant policy change that will have lasting repercussions to be taken up with no meaningful debate is absolutely shameful,” said State Rep. Woodrow Stanley, D-Flint.
Democrats said the right-to-work push is about giving corporations more power.
“You are unleashing corporate greed,” said state Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit. “This will be your legacy, governor.”
Republicans, in command of both houses of the legislature, framed the debate over right-to-work as a battle over a worker’s freedom to choose whether or not to join a union.
“This is about freedom, fairness and equality,” House Speaker Jase Bolger said. “These are basic American rights – rights that should unite us.”
Democrats attempted to add amendments to the bills, including one that would allow it to be put up for a statewide referendum. All of them were shot down by Republicans.
When the bills passed, chants of “Shame on you” began in the gallery from the Democrats and protesters watching.
The debate outside the Capitol was just as intense, as an estimated 10,000 people protested outside, while another 2,500 were estimated to be protesting within the Capitol.
Chants of “Solidarity” and “One Term Nerd” were heard as protesters against right-to-work legislation made their voices heard.
Police suited up in riot gear to prepare to keep protesters in line.
However, only two arrests have been made all day. The two individuals attempted to push past state troopers blocking the entrance to the Romney Building, where Snyder’s office is.
According to The Detroit News, protesters stood outside of Snyder’s office after the legislation passed and attempted to block troopers from entering the building to escort Snyder. The troopers threatened to arrest them if they did not move.
“Hell no, we won’t go,” the protesters chanted.
Police on horseback dispersed the protesters, but no arrests were made during that incident.