Thousands Are Expected to Protest Anti-Worker Legislation in Michigan
Large numbers of Michigan State Police officers have surrounded the Capitol this morning in anticipation of a day of protests in response to so-called right-to-work legislation currently being processed through the state Legislature.
No doubt, the anticipatory police presence is related to the huge backlash to similar anti-worker legislation signed by Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker that led to union activists occupying the Capitol building in February and March of 2011.
If passed, Michigan will be the twenty-fourth state with laws to prohibit requiring union dues as a condition of employment.
Ironworkers from the Upper Peninsula and Wisconsin will travel to Lansing this week, and over the weekend, hundreds of working people gathered into UAW Local 600 in Dearborn to learn about peaceful civil disobedience, a tactic they plan to use in the fight against the anti-worker legislation. (photo via Teamster Nation)
The union hall reportedly couldn’t hold all the nurses, autoworkers, Teamsters, teachers, members of SEIU, AFSCME, UFCW, ISO and other unions who attended the meeting.
“Humanize the situation. Be clear with your intentions. Introduce yourself,” national labor activist Lisa Fithian, of Austin, Texas, said through a megaphone. “They’re going to do everything they can to criminalize us.”
“We are not the violent ones,” Fithian told the crowd. “What is it that the police are going to do? What is it that the governor is going to order?… We have to remember: The police are not our enemy in this fight. They’re doing a job. It’s our job to convince them that they should put their guns down and join the people.”
Additionally, the NFL Players Association put out a statement opposing the bill:
“We stood up against this in the past, and we stand against it in its current form in Michigan,” George Atallah, the association’s assistant executive director for external affairs, told ThinkProgress in a phone interview. “Our leadership and players are always proud to stand with workers in Michigan and everywhere else. We don’t think voters chose this, and we don’t think workers deserve this.”
On Tuesday, thousands of union activists are expected to converge at the Capitol, and congressional Democrats are meeting with Governor Rick Snyder this morning to discuss the anti-worker legislation.
The Michigan Nurses Association plans to demonstrate on the Capitol steps this morning, and protesters will wear duct tape over their mouths.
Detroit Free Press:
“This politically motivated legislation will only give corporations and CEOs more power to silence workers, including nurses,” spokeswoman Dawn Kettinger said in a news release.
Eight people have already been arrested at the Capitol Thursday after demonstrators reportedly attempted to rush on the Senate floor and state police first pepper-sprayed the protesters and then sealed the doors to the Capitol for several hours afterwards.
The legislation has been challenged in court by a union activist who claims the state Open Meetings Act was violated when police barred the doors to the Capitol on Thursday, ABC News reports. Ari Adler, a spokesman for Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger, told the Detroit Free Press the lawsuit was “baseless and frivolous” and “more about receiving attention than getting justice.”
Michigan State Police sent out a reminder notice Sunday about rules of use at the Capitol:
The department said that on weekdays when the Legislature isn’t in session—such as Monday—public visiting hours inside the Capitol are from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. When the Legislature is in session—such as Tuesday—the building would remain open longer if lawmakers remain in session. The building would be open to the public until 30 minutes after the last chamber of the Legislature or committee hearing adjourns.
The grounds outside the Capitol are listed as open for events and exhibits from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.—or longer, if the Legislature remains in session outside those times.
For more on Michigan’s anti-labor legislation, check out John Nichols’s coverage here.
© 2012 The Nation