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Despite the clash, AFP-M Director Scott Hagerstrom praised the work of Republican lawmakers.

“It’s a great day for Michigan,” he said amid a cacophony of bullhorns and shouting from opponents. “It’s really going to move Michigan forward. We’re seeing it already in the jobs that have been created in Indiana. It does not bust the unions, but it will require unions to be more responsive to union membership. A little bit of competition is good for everyone.” 

Conservative praise

Free-market economists also praised the vote late Tuesday, saying it would make unions more accountable and improve the state’s business and investment climate.

“This is a great victory for American workers,” said Richard Vedder, an economic policy adviser at the Heartland Institute in Chicago and a professor at Ohio University. “Now 45 percent of Americans are covered by these laws, and it is only a matter of time before the other big Midwestern states follow suit or have their lunches eaten by Indiana and Michigan.”

Workers, however, saw it as an injustice. Wearing steel-toed work boots and hard hats, they held up some pointedly worded signs and railed against what they see as the erosion of the middle class and a big-government assault on the working man.

The crowd included pipe fitters, steamfitters, carpenters, plumbers, electricians and teachers, many wearing shirts emblazoned with their union acronyms. So many public school teachers took the day off to join the protest that a number of school districts in the state called off classes or operated with a reduced faculty.

“This isn’t just about Michigan; it’s about all of America,” said steelworkers Local 200 President Bob Gillis of St. Mary’s, Ohio, a father of four who drove to Lansing to support the union efforts. “If they do it in Michigan, Ohio is next.”

Dan Franklin a union fire sprinkler fitter for 28 years, drove from Dayton, Ohio, on Monday night to support his fellow union members in Michigan. He shares similar fears of an anti-union sentiment creeping across the Rust Belt.

“It seems like it’s starting to surround us,” said Mr. Franklin. “At least in Ohio, we have some advantage that we can take something like this up in an election. Here it just seems like it’s getting shoved down people’s throats.” 

Vowing revenge

“Recall Snyder” signs were prolific, as were furious calls for retribution in the wake of the vote. Some issued a warning to Republicans that opponents would be back to change things at the ballot box in 2014.

“Do not let this be the last time,” shouted a speaker set up on a stage at City Hall. “The fight begins after this happens.”

The Rev. Jesse Jackson, who was among the speakers in downtown Lansing, invoked the civil rights struggle and said the workers in America had “come too far to turn back now.”

He called for unions to organize a one-day strike and later stood with lawmakers and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero as they held signs calling for the governor to veto the legislation.

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