vociferous opposition from labor and the White House, unions
apparently have lost a legislative battle in the blue-collar
heartland of Michigan.
As workers protested Tuesday in
Lansing, the state House of Representatives passed a measure
making Michigan a right-to-work state. President Obama slammed
the bill Monday when talking with workers at Detroit Diesel in
Redford, Mich., which makes powertrain components for parent
Daimler Trucks North America LLC.
The legislation, which regulates
strikes and picketing, mediates grievances and disputes and
requires certain provisions in collective bargaining
agreements, among other limits to labors powers, will now
go to Gov. Rick Snyder for his signature.
The provision that could most
severely weaken organizations like the United Steelworkers
union and the United Auto Workers is removal of the requirement
that employees join the union at a unionized company or pay
After the 58-to-52 vote
approving the legislation, USW president Leo Gerard called on
steelworkers to join other unions and allies in Michigan and
nationwide to urge Snyder to veto the right-to-work bill,
although that is seen as unlikely. "He should ... allow an
amendment that would put this issue before the public as a
state ballot initiative. Let the people of Michigan debate and
vote on a consequential matter that will affect all working
The USW backed Obama, said
Gerard, "for his public statement in Detroit to do everything
we can to keep good middle-class jobs that help workers rebuild
security for their families." The President, visiting Detroit
Diesel Monday as it announced a $120-million investment that
will create 115 new jobs, said Michigans legislature
should not "take away your rights to bargain for better wages
and working conditions. These so-called right-to-work laws
dont have to do with economics; they have everything to
do with politics. What theyre really talking about is
giving you the right to work for less money."
The President won re-election
with the help of union voters. He credited Michigan workers
with reviving the auto industry and suggested that state and
national legislators should focus on aiding the growth of
American manufacturers like Detroit Diesel.
"Freedom to work is pro-family,
pro-taxpayer, pro-workerand, yes, (it) is pro-union,"
Rep. Mark Shirley (R., Clarklake) said in the state House.
"We have broad, deep and
profoundly passionate support for making Michigan the next
freedom-to-work state. We are standing on solid ground," he
said. "This protects a workers right to associate and the
right to not associate, the right to belong to a union and the
right not to belong to a union. Unions are as free to make
their case as workers are to make their choice."