LANSING, Mich. – The Michigan Legislature gave final approval Tuesday to a bitterly contested right-to-work plan limiting the power of unions, a devastating and once unthinkable defeat for organized labor in a state considered a cradle of the movement.
And Republican Gov. Rick Snyder gave the plan his signature on the same day.
Unswayed by Democrats’ pleas and thousands of protesters inside and outside the state Capitol, the House approved two final bills, sending them on to Snyder. One dealt with private sector workers, the other with government employees. Both measures cleared the Senate last week.
Snyder made Michigan the 24th state with right-to-work laws, which ban requirements that nonunion employees pay unions for negotiating contracts and other services. Supporters say they give workers more choice and boost economic growth, but critics say the real intent is to weaken organized labor by bleeding unions of money needed to bargain effectively with management.
Here are a few things to know about right-to-work legislation in Michigan:
MEANING BEHIND THE SLOGAN: It isn’t about a right to work but rather a right for workers to choose whether they want to join a union or pay fees that amount to union dues. The legislation prohibits what are known as “closed shops,” where workers have no choice but to join a union or pay those fees.
IT’S MOVING SWIFTLY: The GOP majority used its numbers and backing from Snyder to quickly send legislation through the House and Senate, and the House returned to render final votes Tuesday. They brushed aside denunciations and challenges by Democrats and cries of outrage from thousands of union activists who swarmed the state Capitol hallways and grounds.
IN THIS STATE: Washington is among the states without right-to-work laws. About 20 percent of workers in Washington are represented by a union making the state sixth in the country in the percentage of workers represented by labor organizations, according to the Washington State Labor Council. The state’s largest private union employer is Boeing, with nearly 50,000 union workers. Boeing three years ago decided to open a second assembly line for its 787 jet in South Carolina in part because it was a right-to- work state.Staff writer John Gillie contributed to this report.