December 12, 2012

Organized labor takes hit in Michigan

Protests notwithstanding, Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signs 'right to work' measures.

By Michael A. Fletcher and Sean Sullivan / The Washington Post

(Continued from page 1)

An anti right-to-work protester and a pro right-to-work protestor yell at each other outside of Michigan's state capitol building in Lansing
click image to enlarge

A union activist, left, goes jaw to jaw with a “right to work” proponent during an emotional rally in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday after the Republican-led legislature gave final approval to “right to work” legislation.

REUTERS/Rebecca Cook


The Maine Legislature has considered "right to work" legislation for the last couple of years but has taken no action.

A 2011 bill, L.D. 309, was supposed to have come up for a vote but was tabled when the Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee said it needed more time to consider the proposal.

The Maine State Employees Association called a 2012 version of the "right to work" bill "a bargaining table issue" and said the Legislature should not interfere with the negotiation process.

In April, the Maine House of Representatives tabled the right to work bill. The legislation would only have affected the public sector.

– Press Herald staff

With increasing numbers of working Americans who must make do with falling wages, frozen pensions and long periods of joblessness, it is unclear whether they consider unions their allies.

The Michigan vote ended a swift change of fortune for the forces of organized labor there. Unions and their supporters spent more than $22 million to back a ballot measure last month that would have guaranteed collective-bargaining rights in the state Constitution, only to see it resoundingly defeated.


The rejection emboldened the other side. Sensing an opening, supporters pushed to have the legislature pass the right-to-work measure. Then Snyder, who had previously expressed ambivalence, came out in favor of it.

Greg McNeilly, who heads the Michigan Freedom Fund, a group backed by multimillionaire conservative activist Dick DeVos that spent millions pressing for passage of the legislation, called their success a potentially decisive hit against organized labor.


"I think today is their Waterloo," McNeilly said. "To see the birthplace of forced unionization do a turnabout is a very monumental achievement, and it is historic."


Whatever the impact, union leaders promised to work hard to overturn Tuesday's actions.


"What this means is that for the next two years, we are going to work hard to elect candidates who support the middle class and working class and see what we can do to get this bill turned over," said Michael Bolton, director of United Steel Workers District 2, which covers Wisconsin and Michigan.


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