Thousands of union members and organised labour activists have stormed the Michigan state capitol this morning to protest pending “right-to-work” legislation that is scheduled for a vote Tuesday. The Detroit Free Press reports that protesters have already filled the Capitol building in Lansing. According to the newspaper, 10,000 people are expected to gather outside to demonstrate against the law, which would make it illegal to require workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment.
Despite a vocal counteroffensive from President Barack Obama and other national Democrats Monday, Michigan’s GOP-led state legislature is expected to pass the legislation. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder has said he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk.
On the surface, Michigan may seem like a surprising battleground for the latest GOP assault on organised labour. The manufacturing-heavy state is a stronghold for several powerful public and private-sector unions, most notably the United Auto Workers.The New York Times reports that just last month labour leaders asked the state’s voters to approve an initiative that would have codified collective bargaining in the state constitution.
That measure backfired, and last week, GOP state legislators pushed through the right-to-work bill without any committee hearings or Democratic support.
The conflict exposed growing tensions between Michigan’s labour movement and the state’s Republican lawmakers, echoing a trend that has been popping up in statehouses across the Midwest since 2010, including in Ohio, Wisconsin, and Indiana.
But if the outcome of those labour fights are any indication, it is unlikely that Michigan’s right-to-work fight will end at Snyder’s desk today. According to reports, labour organisers are already exploring legal options to repeal the right-to-work law, and recall Republican lawmakers instrumental in passing the bill.
UPDATE, 12:35 p.m.:
The AP reports that the Michigan state House passed the first of two right-to-work bills Tuesday, voting along 58-31 along party lines. The bill, which deals with public-sector unions makes it illegal to require workers to pay union dues as a condition of employment.
The House is expected to vote on a second right-to-work- bill dealing with private-sector unions later this afternoon.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has said that, once passed, he will sign the bills into law as early as Wednesday.