Following Gov. Rick Snyder's call to action Thursday, the Michigan Legislature passed a right-to-work bill amid throngs of protesters on the Capitol lawn.
The bill prohibits unions from collecting fees from nonunion workers, which opponents say would weaken organized labor’s ability to bargain for good wages while supporters say it would boost jobs.
In a new Pure Michigan ad published Thursday on YouTube, Snyder says his decision to pursue such legislation is "about being pro-work and giving workers the freedom to choose who they associate with."
"We respect the fact that the freedom-to-work issue evokes strong emotions among supporters and opponents,” Snyder said during a press conference. “That’s why we’ve focused on other reforms that are so critical to Michigan’s turnaround. But with this issue now on the table, it’s time to embrace the benefits that come with giving working men and women the freedom they deserve. The values of freedom, fairness and equality in the workplace should unite us all. And as states fiercely compete for jobs, this legislation will ensure that investors know Michigan is the place to do business.”
Although this legislation would cover both the public and private sectors, there would be an exception for police and firefighters.
Joe Romeo, president of the Dexter Education Association, said the bill is an attempt to drive wages down among union employees.
"My perspective as an educator is that the states that have a right-to-work program are the lowest achieving states educationally," he said. "This bill does not consider the consequences to kids; states with the lowest wages have the worst teachers and the worst performance test scores."
The Michigan Laborers Union said that the bill is a "money grab" on the backs of the middle class.
"Michigan has real challenges, and this won’t do anything to help create jobs or rebuild our economy,” Jonathan Byrd of the Michigan Laborers said in a written statement. “There are too many questions that need to be answered before we push so-called right-to-work legislation. Politicians need to roll up their sleeves and get to work for Michigan’s working families.
"Let’s focus on rebuilding Michigan together, instead of tearing apart the rights that protect middle class families who built our state," Byrd said.
The Washtenaw County Democratic Party also denounced the legislation.
"Though Republicans keep trying to frame the issue as an issue of choice, everyone can see through their deceit that this is a blatant attack and political payback against worker unions,” Lonnie Scott, WCDP vice chairman for communications said. “There is no proof that right-to-work laws produce any jobs or will help the Michigan economy, what it will help is to line the pockets of CEO’s at the expense of middle class workers.”
State Rep. Mark Ouimet, R-Scio Township, released a statement Thursday in support of House Bill 4054.
"This is truly an historic reform in Michigan where all workers will be given the freedom to choose whether to join a union, without having the decision jeopardize their ability to make a living. It's a pro-worker measure that will encourage equality and individual freedom," Ouimet said.
"No one should be forced to join a union or pay dues to an organization they don’t support. It's un-American and anti-worker. The people of Michigan should be able to seek jobs without being forced to have union dues deducted from their paychecks. This important reform is about individual freedom and making Michigan more competitive so we can attract new jobs and economic development."
The bill passed 58-52 in the House, and 22-16 in the Senate.