Unions vow to fight Michigan right-to-work law

Legislature swiftly approves bill

  • Protesters gather for a rally on the state Capitol steps in Lansing, Mich., on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is demonstrating against legislation that would make Michigan the 24th state with a right-to-work law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)Protesters gather for a rally on the state Capitol steps in Lansing, Mich., on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is demonstrating against legislation that would make Michigan the 24th state with a right-to-work law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
  • Sheet-metal workers from Toledo, Ohio, escort an inflatable rat during a march to the state Capitol grounds in Lansing, Mich., on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is demonstrating against legislation that would make Michigan the 24th state with a right-to-work law. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)Sheet-metal workers from Toledo, Ohio, escort an inflatable rat during a march to the state Capitol grounds in Lansing, Mich., on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is demonstrating against legislation that would make Michigan the 24th state with a right-to-work law. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
  • Protesters gather for a rally in the rotunda at the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation passed last week. Michigan could become the 24th state with a right-to-work law next week. Rules required a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other's bills; lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday and Gov. Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)Protesters gather for a rally in the rotunda at the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation passed last week. Michigan could become the 24th state with a right-to-work law next week. Rules required a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other's bills; lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday and Gov. Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
  • Protesters gather for a rally at the state Capitol in Lansing, Mich., on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012, to demonstrate against legislation that could make Michigan the 24th state with a right-to-work law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)Protesters gather for a rally at the state Capitol in Lansing, Mich., on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012, to demonstrate against legislation that could make Michigan the 24th state with a right-to-work law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
  • Protesters gather for a rally in the rotunda at the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation passed last week. Michigan could become the 24th state with a right-to-work law next week. Rules required a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other's bills; lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday and Gov. Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)Protesters gather for a rally in the rotunda at the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation passed last week. Michigan could become the 24th state with a right-to-work law next week. Rules required a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other's bills; lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday and Gov. Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
  • Thousands of supporter march to the State Capitol grounds in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation that was passed by the state legislature last week.  (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)Thousands of supporter march to the State Capitol grounds in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation that was passed by the state legislature last week. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
  • Protesters gather for a rally in the state Capitol Rotunda in Lansing, Mich., on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is demonstrating against right-to-work legislation passed last week that would make Michigan the 24th state with a right-to-work law. Rules required a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other's bills; lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday, and Gov. Rick Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)Protesters gather for a rally in the state Capitol Rotunda in Lansing, Mich., on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is demonstrating against right-to-work legislation passed last week that would make Michigan the 24th state with a right-to-work law. Rules required a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other's bills; lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday, and Gov. Rick Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
  • Protesters to the right-to-work legislation march on the state Capitol in Lansing, Mich., on Tuesday Dec. 11, 2012. Several thousand union members gathered to protest the legislation. (AP Photo/Detroit Free Press, Romain Blanquart) Protesters to the right-to-work legislation march on the state Capitol in Lansing, Mich., on Tuesday Dec. 11, 2012. Several thousand union members gathered to protest the legislation. (AP Photo/Detroit Free Press, Romain Blanquart)
  • Protesters gather for a rally at the state Capitol in Lansing, Mich., on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is demonstrating against legislation that would make Michigan the 24th state with a right-to-work law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)Protesters gather for a rally at the state Capitol in Lansing, Mich., on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is demonstrating against legislation that would make Michigan the 24th state with a right-to-work law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
  • A protester holds an American flag at a rally on the state Capitol grounds in Lansing, Mich., on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is demonstrating against legislation that would make Michigan the 24th state with a right-to-work law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)A protester holds an American flag at a rally on the state Capitol grounds in Lansing, Mich., on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is demonstrating against legislation that would make Michigan the 24th state with a right-to-work law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
  • A protester walks past Michigan State Police officers at the Capitol in Lansing, Mich., on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. Demonstrators are protesting legislation that would make Michigan the 24th state with a right-to-work law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)A protester walks past Michigan State Police officers at the Capitol in Lansing, Mich., on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. Demonstrators are protesting legislation that would make Michigan the 24th state with a right-to-work law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
  • Thousands of protesters gather for a rally on the state Capitol grounds in Lansing, Mich., on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting legislation that would make Michigan the 24th right-to-work state, banning requirements that nonunion employees pay unions for negotiating contracts and other services. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)Thousands of protesters gather for a rally on the state Capitol grounds in Lansing, Mich., on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting legislation that would make Michigan the 24th right-to-work state, banning requirements that nonunion employees pay unions for negotiating contracts and other services. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
  • Michigan State Police surround a man who was allegedly knocked off his segway scooter by a sheriff deputy on horseback during a rally on the State Capitol grounds in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation that was passed by the state legislature last week. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)Michigan State Police surround a man who was allegedly knocked off his segway scooter by a sheriff deputy on horseback during a rally on the State Capitol grounds in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation that was passed by the state legislature last week. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

LANSING, Mich. — As furious union members vowed to carry their fight into the next election cycle, lawmakers pushed through historic right-to-work legislation Tuesday — making this bastion of industrial labor strength the 24th state and the second in the Rust Belt to adopt right-to-work laws for public- and private-sector unions.

In a private ceremony, Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, signed the bills covering private- and public-sector workers just hours after the state Legislature acted. The right-to-work measure forbids unions from requiring workers at organized worksites to join or pay dues. Both sides say the change undercuts a key source of labor power and bargaining leverage.

“This is a major day in Michigan’s history,” Mr. Snyder said. “I don’t view this as anti-union at all. I view this as pro-worker.”

House Bill 4003 passed by a 58-51 margin, while Senate Bill 116, which applies to private-sector unions, was approved 58-52, making Michigan the second Midwestern state to embrace the right-to-work option.

Indiana approved a similar law in February. The Michigan law exempts unions for police and firefighters.

“This is about freedom, fairness and equality,” House Speaker Jase Bolger, a Republican, said Tuesday morning as Democrats in the chamber sought to quash or stall a vote with a slate of amendments. “These are basic American rights — rights that should unite us.”

For a state business community still struggling to gain altitude after a brutal recession, right-to-work will be a “game-changer,” Mr. Bolger said.

Minority Democrats, angry that the bill was pushed through the Legislature in a lame-duck session, warned about a political backlash against Mr. Snyder and other Republicans.

“This is the nuclear option,” Rep. Doug Geiss, a Democrat, told lawmakers. “This is the most divisive issue that we have had to deal with. And this will have repercussions.”

Teamsters union President James P. Hoffa, who joined a crowd of more than 10,000 who descended on the state Capitol, said right-to-work proponents “are waking a sleeping giant. … I think this is going to really build up the union movement in the long run.”

Mirroring the fury of union activists, State Rep. Douglas Geiss, a Democrat, was more blunt: “There will be blood.”

As legislators debated, a huge throng of union members, not only from Michigan but also Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin, swamped the Statehouse grounds and the streets of downtown Lansing, where police in riot gear kept close watch. Bundled against the cold, many protesters banged wooden clubs on plastic buckets as impassioned speakers invoked the civil rights movement.

“No justice, no peace,” they chanted as lawmakers inside the state Senate and House prepared for the final debate.

The Detroit News reported that one trooper used pepper spray to subdue one of the protesters. Two protesters were arrested by midday after they tried to push past troopers to get inside the George Romney Building across from the Capitol, where the governor has an office, state police Capt. Harold Love said.

A tent put up by Americans for Prosperity-Michigan, a business-backed group that supports the right-to-work law, was torn down.

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