Unions Routed, Mich. Becomes ‘Right-to-Work’ State

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It is something many thought they would never see: Michigan, one of the strongest union states in the country, is now a right-to-work state. And it happened with lightning speed.

Michigan Republicans acted so quickly that the unions had little time to react. Within hours of announcing their plans last Thursday, bills were rushed through the Senate. And after a required five-day waiting period, the House approved final passage Tuesday.

Thousands of union members from across the state converged on the state capital in Lansing. Teachers even called in sick, abandoning their students.

In some cases, there was violence. One YouTube video shows a supporter of the new law being punched by union members. Police had to resort to pepper spray to control the crowd.

How did the Republicans win on the right to work issue in the heavily pro-union, Democratic Michigan? Seton Motley, with Less Government, has more.

But the union intimidation wasn't enough to stop the Republican governor from signing the law.

"To have him with a stroke of his pen take our rights away and it's offensive," union member Kris Derry said.

Supporters call the new law right-to-work. But unions say it cuts their bargaining power. Less union dues mean less influence.

President Barack Obama spoke out against the new law.

"These so-called 'right-to-work' laws, they don't have to do with economics; they have everything to do with politics," he charged. "What they're really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money."

But under right-to-work laws workers get to take home more of their money because they prevent the unions from forcing non-union workers to pay dues.

Polls show that given a choice, about a quarter of Michigan government employees would opt out of unions, returning about $100 million a year to their pockets.

Supporters also say the law encourages business.

Chris Beckering, owner of Pioneer Construction, predicts the bill will allow his business to hire more workers.

"This will attract more businesses to Michigan. Those businesses will need space and we're here to build it for them," he said.

The new laws deliver a huge blow to the labor movement in the heart of the U.S. auto industry.

As hard as it is to believe, Detroit was once a jewel. Many Michiganders will attest that Detroit and the state were damaged in part by union power increasing the cost of business and forcing companies to leave, eroding the tax base.

Now Michigan will become the 24th right-to-work state, one of a number of states that have successfully challenged the unions after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker defeated them and then survived a recall election.

But the Michigan law is likely to be only the first act in a political struggle, as opponents fight the new law in court, the legislature, and the voting booth.

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