Michigan GOP approves right to work amid protests

Published on NewsOK Modified: December 6, 2012 at 8:20 pm •  Published: December 6, 2012
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The Capitol, which was temporarily closed because of safety concerns, reopened Thursday afternoon, sending hundreds of protesters streaming back inside with chants of, "Whose house? Our house!" Adamczyk said a judge ordered the building reopened.

The decision to push forward in the waning days of the Legislature's lame-duck session infuriated outnumbered Democrats, who resorted to parliamentary maneuvers to slow action but were powerless to block the bills.

House Democrats did walk out briefly Thursday in protest of the Capitol being closed.

Adamczyk estimated that about 2,500 visitors were inside the Capitol, where their shouts reverberated off stone halls and frequently could be heard inside the ornate chambers.

After repeatedly insisting during his first two years in office that right-to-work was not on his agenda, Snyder reversed course Thursday, a month after voters defeated a ballot initiative that would have barred such measures under the state constitution.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Snyder said he had kept the issue at arm's length while pursuing other programs to bolster the state economy. But he said circumstances had pushed the matter to the forefront.

"It is a divisive issue," he acknowledged. "But it was already being divisive over the past few weeks, so let's get this resolved. Let's reach a conclusion that's in the best interests of all."

Also influencing his decision, he said, were reports that some 90 companies had decided to locate in Indiana since that state adopted right-to-work legislation. "That's thousands of jobs, and we want to have that kind of success in Michigan," he said.

Snyder and the GOP leaders insisted the legislation was not meant to weaken unions or collective bargaining, saying it would make unions more responsive to their members.

Senate Democratic leader Gretchen Whitmer said she was "livid."

"These guys have lied to us all along the way," she said. "They are pushing through the most divisive legislation they could come up with in the dark of night, at the end of a lame-duck session and then they're going to hightail it out of town. It's cowardly."

Republicans have commanding majorities in both chambers — 64-46 in the House and 26-12 in the Senate. Under their rules, only a simple majority of members elected and serving must be present to have a quorum and conduct business. For that reason, Democrats acknowledged that boycotting sessions and going into hiding, as some lawmakers in neighboring Indiana and Wisconsin have done in recent years to stall legislation unpopular with unions, would be futile in Michigan.

Throngs of protesters spent weeks outside capitol buildings in those states, clashing over union rights.

"We will not have another Wisconsin in Michigan," Adamczyk said. "People are allowed to protest, but they need to do in a peaceful manner."

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