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Update: Michigan Lawmakers Pass First Right-to-Work Bill, Over Unions’ Protests

Update at 12:20 PM: The Michigan House has passed the first bill permitting workers to opt out of paying required fees to participate in a union. This covers public sector jobs and passed 58 to 51, reports Michigan Public Radio Networks. The next bill to be debated will address private sector work. Loud protests continue inside the Capitol building.

Michigan Radio reporter Steve Carmody says state police are forming a 'perimeter' outside the capitol, and are wearing riot gear.

Update at 11:40 ET: The Michigan House of Representatives has taken up discussion of the first of two bills regarding fees and unions. Lawmakers are voting on amendments. The doors to the Michigan capitol building are closed because Michigan state police say the building is full.

There are reports at least three school districts in the greater Detroit area closed today. Although the districts didn't say so, it appears that teachers are using leave to travel to Lansing to protest the union bill, according to the Detroit News.

Our original post:

It seems to be a repeat of the 2011 union battle in Wisconsin -- a Republican-led state legislature, supported by a Republican governor, suddenly takes up legislation that could change how unions are financed and run in the state.

Now, it's December, 2012, and the scenario shifts to Michigan, where the lame-duck legislature, poised to lose some GOP seats, undertook what's known as a right-to-work bill. This would prohibit unions from requiring members to pay dues.

Both the Michigan house and senate chambers passed the bill and Gov. Rick Snyder plans to sign it into law. As in Wisconsin, Michigan union members have descended on the capital, Lansing, with crowded rallies and vows of political action. Rick Pluta of Michigan Public Radio Networks says different union groups showed up.

The legislature opens its session today at 10 a.m. EST, according to the Detroit Free Press. Rick tells us despite the demonstrations, there's enough support to give the bill final passage.

And capitol police are ready, too. The Detroit News reports they've closed streets and state police troopers are carrying batons and tear gas devices. Last week, police used pepper spray to force union protesters out of the capitol, apparently after a few of them tried to rush the senate floor.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit www.npr.org.

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