LANSING, Mich. — As the chants of angry protesters filled the Capitol, Michigan lawmakers gave final approval Tuesday to right-to-work legislation, dealing a once-unthinkable defeat to organized labor in a state that has been a cradle of the movement for generations.
The Republican-dominated House ignored Democrats' pleas to delay the passage and instead approved two bills with the same ruthless efficiency the Senate showed last week. One measure dealt with private sector workers, the other with government employees. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed both within hours.
“This is about freedom, fairness and equality,” House Speaker Jase Bolger said. “These are basic American rights — rights that should unite us.”
After the vote, he said, Michigan's future “has never been brighter, because workers are free.”
Once the laws are enacted, the state where the United Auto Workers was founded and labor has long been a political titan will join 23 others with right-to-work laws, which ban requirements that nonunion employees pay unions for negotiating contracts and other services.
Supporters say the laws give workers more choice and support economic growth. Critics insist the intent is to weaken organized labor by letting workers “freeload” by withholding money unions need to bargain.
Protesters in the gallery chanted “Shame on you!” as the measures were adopted. Union backers clogged the hallways and grounds, shouting “No justice, no peace.” Democrats warned hard feelings over the legislation and Republicans' refusal to hold committee hearings or a statewide referendum would be long-lasting.
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