Right-to-work debate heats up ahead of Michigan vote

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In other states, similar battles were drawn-out affairs lasting weeks. But Mr.  Snyder, a business executive-turned-governor, and the Republican-dominated Legislature used their political muscle to rapidly introduce and ramrod legislation through the House and Senate in a single day last week. Demonstrators and Democrats howled in protest, but to no avail.

On Tuesday, asked about the speed at which the legislation moved forward, Mr. Snyder said the issue wasn’t rushed and that the question of whether to make Michigan a right-to-work state long has been discussed.

“There has been lots of time for citizens to contact legislators and share their feelings,” he said.

A victory in Michigan, a cradle of organized labor, would give the right-to-work movement its strongest foothold yet in the Rust Belt, where the 2010 election and tea party movement produced assertive Republican majorities that have dealt unions one body blow after another.

For all the shouting, the actual benefit or harm of such laws is not clear. Each camp has pointed to studies bolstering its claims, but one labor expert said the conclusions are inconclusive.

“Very little is actually known about the impact of right-to-work laws,” Gary Chaison, a professor of labor relations at Clark University in Massachusetts, said Monday. “There’s a lot of assumptions that they create or destroy jobs, but the correlation is not definite.”

Democrats contend that Republicans, who lost five House seats in the November election, wanted to act before a new legislature takes office next month. In passionate floor speeches last week, they accused the majority of ignoring the message from voters and bowing to right-wing interest groups.

Criticism of the legislation has come from all the way up the Democratic food chain.

“These so-called right-to-work laws, they don’t have anything to do with economics; they have everything to do with politics,” Mr. Obama told cheering workers Monday during a visit to an engine plant in Redford, Mich. “What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money.”

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, and members of the state’s U.S. House delegation met with Mr. Snyder on Monday in Detroit and urged him to veto the legislation or amend it to allow a statewide referendum. Mr. Levin said the governor pledged to “seriously consider” the requests.

In Lansing, leaders of the Democratic minority in the state House acknowledged there was little they could do to stop the fast-moving legislation in the waning days of the session. However, they vowed to vote against other legislation as a form of protest.

Ari Adler, spokesman for Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger, chided those in Washington for “trying to tell Republicans in Michigan to slow down and not do our job in Lansing while they fail to resolve the nation’s ‘fiscal cliff’ crisis or even approve a budget.”

Associated Press writers Todd Richmond and Corey Williams in Lansing and Ben Feller in Redford, Mich., contributed to this article.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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