Michigan lawmakers know that some people in their state are about to revolt at any given second.
I could be exaggerating a bit, but that’s the feeling that came out of Lansing on Tuesday. Controversial ‘Right to Work’ legislation was forced through the state’s House of Representatives without a committee hearing or public input.
Both opponents and supporters were closely watching two bills — one dealing with public sector employees and the other for those in the private sector. The measures passed 58-51 for the public sector bill. The other had a 58-52 total in favor of change. Six Republicans joined the entire body of Democratic lawmakers in opposing the bill, but their efforts were not enough.
Crowds outside the state Capitol were at record levels. Police estimated that 12,500 people descended on Lansing to voice their opinions either for or against the union bills.
Many may wonder how and why this new law in Michigan is so important all of a sudden. Well, the legislation was forced through by Republican legislators and signed by Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday. Snyder is also a Republican.
Also, remember that Michigan is the birthplace of the union movement. Estimates say that there are over 700,000 union members in the state. The auto industry was born there and has been employing union members for decades. Michigan is the mothership of the union movement being dealt a major blow to the institution that has defined its employment base.
The ‘Right to Work’ legislation will take effect around March 2013. It will then be illegal for unions to force people into membership through payments. Union supporters view this as enabling “freeloaders” — people who they view as getting union benefits without paying the price. It is also viewed as another attempt to weaken union workers, as has been tried in other Midwestern states.
Now that the people and Democratic lawmakers are riled up against the newly-passed legislation, I wonder how they will repeal it. Doesn’t look like many Republican legislators will budge on it.
Michigan is now the 24th state to have Right to Work laws in place. It’s a pretty sad day for organized labor in the state.