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Mich. Unions Galvinizing to Confront 'Right-to-Work' Legislation

Thousands preparing to march to Capitol

- Andrea Germanos, staff writer

Thousands of union supporters in Michigan are gearing up to confront the contentious right-to-work legislation signed on Thursday.

"This bill is a blatant attempt by the richest in Michigan to silence the voices of working families in our democracy," says Working Michigan. (Photo: swskeptic via flickr) Legislation passed by Michigan's House and Senate is expected to be signed on Tuesday by Gov. and would make the state the 24th with a right-to-work law.

Right-to-work laws mean that non-union employees are not required to pay dues, and are touted by supporters as "workplace freedom," but opponents see them as an attack on labor.  The Huffington Post's Amanda Terkel reports:

Opponents, however, point out that these non-payers will reap the benefits of a unionized workplace without paying their fair share.

"What this is really about is defunding unions," said Steve Cook, president of Michigan Education Association. "They're attacking the collective bargaining process. They want to force unions to basically have to provide services, benefits and the protections to non-members who will not pay a penny for them. It defunds unions. It cripples unions."

The Detroit Free Press reports on the unions galvanizing support:

Unions spent Friday organizing civil disobedience training and staffing phone banks to urge members to be at the Capitol on Tuesday for what could be one of the largest demonstrations the state's seat of government has seen in decades.

Backers and opponents of a right-to-work law in Michigan said they are planning to show their strength -- predictions of 7,000 demonstrators or more, including hundreds from other states -- as the Legislature prepares to complete its fast-track consideration of a package of bills that would make the lightning-rod issue the law.

Working Michigan, a coalition of faith, labor and community organizations, is organizing a march to the Michigan State Capitol Building on Tuesday.

The group slammed the legislation as an attack on the middle class "by Republican leadership and their corporate CEO funders" and stated:

Study after study has demonstrated the devastating effects of this sort of legislation: workers in 'right-to-work' states make $1,500 less per year, meanwhile the growth rate for 'right-to-work' states actually drops after legislation of this sort is enacted. Dressing the legislation up with benign sounding phrases like 'workplace freedom,' Michiganders understand what’s at stake here and will hold them accountable.

In the wake of this legislation, the only 'freedom' gained for Michigan workers will be the freedom to make less, the freedom to be disrespected at work, the freedom to struggle to pay their bills and the freedom to be left out of the American dream. This bill is a blatant attempt by the richest in Michigan to silence the voices of working families in our democracy, build their own power, and make the growing gap between the rich and everyone else even bigger.

Should Snyder sign this legislation, he will join a list of other governors – John Kasich, Scott Walker, and others – who have signed over the future of their respective states to big corporations and CEOs, making a decision to leave working families behind. Regardless of what might happen, working people have made it clear they will continue to fight for our vision of a better, stronger Michigan and work to hold elected leaders accountable.

The Center for Media and Democracy's Mary Bottari points out the law's connection to the "bill-mill" group ALEC, a connection that may not seem surprising as similiar laws spread:

AFP and other Koch-funded groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have long promoted an extreme anti-worker agenda. It comes as no surprise that key sponsors of the Michigan bill in the House and the Senate such as Senator Arlan Meekhoff, Rep. Tom McMillin, and Rep. Pete Lund are ALEC members. Michigan legislators talked about their plans for passing Right to Work at the ALEC Spring Task Force Meeting in Charlotte earlier this year according to a legislator from New Hampshire.

The ALEC library of bills CMD first posted on ALECexposed.org not only includes a "model" "Right to Work" bill and other measures to disempower and defund unions, but a raft of measures to crush wages for the benefit of corporate CEOs. ALEC has bills to repeal living wage laws, prevailing wage laws, and even minimum wage laws. The only workers ALEC wants to help are workers in China; ALEC has never seen a job killing free trade bill that it has not backed.

The outcome of the legislation, the Detroit Free Press adds, has national implications :

What happens in Michigan, considered the birthplace of the American organized labor movement, is being watched across the country and could prove to be a litmus test of sorts for unions and their once Teflon influence.

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