House votes: Michigan is going to become a 'right-to-work' state for all
Union members from around the country rally today in Lansing.
December 11th, 2012
01:35 PM ET

House votes: Michigan is going to become a 'right-to-work' state for all

[Updated at 2:18 p.m. ET] Unless something else major happens, it looks like we're done here with the live blog.

But our colleagues over at CNNMoney.com will have you updated on the latest information.

[Updated at 1:35 p.m. ET] Michigan State Police are explaining two incidents that occurred during the protests.

There was an incident where pepper spray was used, but it was only because the crowd at the Capitol had grabbed an officer, according to their Twitter account.

Police also followed protesters over to the Romney building where the governor's office is. Now that both bills have passed, it will be Gov. Snyder who will sign the bills into law. Police encountered a bit of trouble at the building that resulted in two arrest.

[Updated at 1:35 p.m. ET] And the House just voted 58-52 for the bill affecting private workers.

So when Gov. Snyder signs the bills, as he's promised he will do, workers in the public and private sectors will no longer have to pay to join a union unless they want to.

It will be the 24th "right-to-work" state.

[Updated at 1:27 p.m. ET] We've got a few more speeches to go on the House floor.

After that lawmakers will vote on the bill as it relates to private workers. If this bill passes, both the bills for private and public workers will go to the desk of the governor.

[Updated at 1:11 p.m. ET] Michigan State Rep. (and prolific tweeter today) Barb Byrum just tweeted for calm:

We've also just received a statement from the House Democrat leader Richard E. Hammel (Mount Morris Township) and House Democratic Leader-Elect Tim Greimel (Auburn Hills in Michigan) also urging for nonviolence at protests.

“Right-to-work is contentious legislation that stirs up the passions of people on all sides of the issue. While we are committed to working against these measures with every legal means available, Rep. Doug Geiss (Taylor) and the entire Democratic caucus stands against the use of violence and do not condone its use.

We condemn violence, the destruction of property and all other illegal activity in the strongest possible terms. We urge our supporters and those who work for bargaining rights in Michigan to stand with us in our call for nonviolence."

[Updated at 12:51 p.m. ET] CNN's Alison Kosik says the numbers of protesters outside the capitol have fallen since the first vote, but there are still crowds outside. Kosik reports that Rev. Jesse Jackson went to the sit-in at the rotunda and prayed with them.

Kosik said that part of the reason so many people turned out to protest is because "unions are really at the fabric of so many people who live in Michigan."

"Unions were practically born here," she said.

iReporter: Faces of the 'Right to Work' protest

That's part of the reason this bill is so divisive.

"What this legislation will essentially mean is that if you are looking for a job here in Michigan you will not be forced to join a union," Kosik explained.

Kosik said that while the first bill already passed, and protesters know that likely means the second bill relating to private workers will too, they are making their voices heard for the future.

"What they are looking towards it the next election and changing the makeup of the legislature," she said.

[Updated at 12:51 p.m. ET] If you're wondering what this fight is all about, here's an explanation from the Gov. Rick Snyder and the Michigan State AFL-CIO President, who are on opposite sides on this issue.

Synder, in a blog entry on his website, said he thinks Republicans weren't trying to destroy unions.

"We owe much to the labor movement - the end of child labor, the 40-hour work week, safe working conditions in factories, and a guaranteed minimum wage," he said. "The labor movement is an important part of Michigan's fabric, and nothing about this proposal eliminates it."

But Michigan State AFL-CIO President Karla Swift said the bill doesn't help workers at all.

"In the wake of this legislation, the only 'freedom' gained for Michigan workers will be the freedom to make less, the freedom to be disrespected at work, the freedom to struggle to pay their bills and the freedom to be left out of the American dream," she said.

[Updated at 12:48 p.m. ET] Here's a little background from our colleagues at CNNMoney.com on why all eyes are on this state as they look to pass measures for both private and public workers.

There are 23 states which have right-to-work laws, mostly in the South and western plains states, where union membership is relatively weak. Nationwide, union membership stands at 11.8%.

Michigan, the birthplace of the United Auto Workers where 17.5% of employees are represented by unions, would be by far the most heavily unionized state to pass such legislation. It would join neighboring Indiana in converting to right-to-work this year.

[Updated at 12:46 p.m. ET] One Michigan State Police trooper used "O/C spray" (known as pepper spray) on one person outside of the Michigan capitol, the police department said on their official Twitter account.

[Updated at 12:45 p.m. ET] While we wait for the upcoming second vote we'll take a little break to talk about the mood around Lansing today.

Professional photographer John McGraw submitted an iReport from the protests and said the mood was "definitely controlled anger"

"They were pretty upset about the way this has come to be, that it was all of a sudden," he told CNN's iReport. "I thought it was a very interesting process to see that many people come and attempt to have their voices heard. There were people on the other side of the issue. Not many, but there were few. Even though they were yelling back and forth, it was peaceful. They were getting heated verbally, but nothing physical."

[Updated at 12:39 p.m. ET] Lawmakers are debating the bill right now inside the House chambers. After they are all done speaking the vote on private workers will begin.

[Updated at 12:28 p.m. ET] This was the scene as Michigan State Police left their staging area a little earlier today. The photo was just filed by Getty photographer Bill Pugliano.

[Updated at 12:21 p.m. ET] The House is now preparing to vote on the "Right to Work" bill as it relates to private workers.

[Updated at 12:19 p.m. ET] The chants from the sit-in are growing louder. Protesters are holding signs and chanting: "Veto." "Veto."

[Updated at 12:12 p.m. ET] Here's where things stand now. The Senate passed the bill  on Friday. Now that the House has done the same the bill relating to public workers will go to Michigan's governor. Next up: The bill on private workers.

Gov. Rick Snyder told CNN on Friday that he had already had a lot of discussion on the issue with labor leaders and Democrats, and that he will sign the bill when it reaches his desk.

"I had said right-to-work was not on my agenda," he told CNN. "It's a divisive issue, and we had higher priorities. What was happening after the election, this issue was coming up whether I wanted it or not. I'm ready to sign."

[Updated at 12:10 p.m. ET] CNN field producer, Julian Cummings, inside the Capitol reports a sit-in occurring now in the rotunda.

"The people, united, will never be defeated" is the chant, again and again, from the protesters in the sit-in.

iReport: Tempers flare at protest

[Updated at 12:09 p.m. ET] Passions are high and the words on the signs are pretty blunt among the protesters outside.

[Updated at 12:04 p.m. ET] The House voted on the bill relating to public workers and it has just passed 58-51.

[Updated at 12:02 p.m. ET] We're now hearing from Detroit Free Press political reporter Kathy Gray that the vote has begun on the bill.

[Updated at 11:57 a.m. ET] Detroit Free Press political reporter Kathy Gray tweets that the vote on the "Right to Work" bill should come soon with only two speakers left.

Curious exactly what is being debated on the floor right now? Here's a link to the Michigan Legislature where you can find a copy of the bill.

[Updated at 11:52 a.m. ET] CNN affiliate WILX reports that in addition to those protesting there are state troopers with pepper spray, batons and tear canisters to keep order in case things get out of hand.

"No justice. No Peace," chants ring out through the crowds, WILX reported.

[Updated at 11:42 a.m. ET] No surprise that activist and Michigan native Michael Moore has an eye on this.

[Updated at 11:33 a.m. ET] Here's a scene from a little earlier showing a pretty heavy police presence at the entrance to the Michigan House Chamber ahead of the debate and vote.

[Updated at 11:28 a.m. ET] The debate goes on in the Michigan state legislature. You can watch a live stream of the events right here.

[Updated at 11:16 a.m. ET] There are a lot of people watching and talking about what's going on.

Here's former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm:

And here's a tweet from the office of the man at the center, current Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, who may earn his @onetoughnerd Twitter name:

[Updated at 11:07 a.m. ET] Bob King, the president of the UAW union, just told CNN's Poppy Harlow that he sees the bill now being voted on as a threat to rights. "It demonstrates to workers and really a broad spectrum of the populous that we have to work hard, we have to fight hard to protect our rights."

Harlow asked why King was opposed to allowing people to have a choice on whether or not to pay union dues - one of the measures being discussed. "They already have that choice," he said.

"You don't have to be a union member. But you have to pay your fair share. Just like if you live in a community, you pay for your fair share of the road cleaning, of the police, of the fire," King argued. "People who benefit by [the union's] collective bargaining benefit by this procedure. They pay a fair share of the cost of representation."

Of course this is close to home in Michigan, the home of the Big Three automakers and birthplace of the UAW.

[Updated at 11:02 a.m. ET] CNN's Alison Kosik outside the state capitol building says although it looks like the vote will pass, the protesters around her want to know their voices have been heard. They tell her they will have the power come election time in two years to take further action.

[Posted at 10:53 a.m. ET] We're watching live video pictures of crowds of people at the Michigan State Capitol as we wait to find out what will happen in a controversial move that could affect every worker in the state, and perhaps beyond.

The legislature looks set to pass a "right-to-work" bill aimed at the organized labor unions that are so powerful there.

CNN Money identifies the arguments for and against the measure in this way:

Advocates of the bill say it will help attract businesses to the state, but critics say that it would weaken labor's bargaining strength by cutting union financial resources without doing anything to bring in more jobs.

CNNMoney's Chris Isidore also reports that labor unions are planning huge protests at the capitol building in Lansing and we hear from Michigan State Police that the building keeps hitting its official capacity as the crowds come in and out.

soundoff (385 Responses)
  1. Bea Kath

    Michigan needs to get new business into their state if they want to thrive. Unfortunately, this means some losses for the union thugs in the state. Is it really such a loss, if more people get to work? THIS is how to grow business and the economy.

    December 11, 2012 at 11:07 am | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Steve

    Unions are the scourge of the U.S. If people don't like their jobs, grow some balls and start your own business. Free enterprise is what this country was built on, no working for someone else.

    December 11, 2012 at 11:14 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • routt66

      Corporations are the scum and source of all that is wrong in the world. The workers need to look after themselves without rich corporations intimidating them.

      December 11, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse |
    • Todd

      Let this pass and tell me how you like making $5 an hour and only working part-time. But hey, if this is your idea of America, go work for Wal-Mart.

      December 11, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dowgirl

      Steve, do not know where you have worked but I have been in many, many manufacturing facilities and hands down the union shops are better, safer and provide a sanity check on rules or lacks of rules, with a spillover impact on those who are not in a union. I get the most satisfaction out of helping other people, I do not want to run a business and how pompous of you to look down on me, a professional engineer who appreciates unions, respect and diversity.

      December 11, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • leet222

      Dowgirl...you obviously haven't been in a UAW shop where women toolmakers are second class citizens and chrysler workers are allowed to drink and smoke dope and then be protected by their leadership. You obviously haven't been in a shop where lineworkers regularly toss supplier parts around and then blame the supplier when damage is done. You obviously haven't been in a shop where union reps stand in the way of safety process improvements because it would mean an assembly worker would have to walk an extra two steps to complete a task. You obviously haven't been in a shop where grievences are filed over minor concerns so that, come negotiation time, the union has some trading chits. Sadly, these aren't exceptions...they are normal occurences. Let's call a spade a spade...when those unions began, there was a genuine purpose and need. Unfortunately many unions have lost their beginning purpose and become primarily political organizations with a sole goal of protecting the perks. I stand behind every union if they would truly stand for fair treatment within their own organizations.

      December 11, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Kris

    Is it American to force membership into any organization? How would Obama respond if all hunters were asked to join the NRA?

    December 11, 2012 at 11:15 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Judith

      No one is being forced to do anything. Workers in Michigan already have the choice of opting out of the union, UNLESS they benefit from the wages and benefits negotiated by the union. In that case, they have to pay dues so they don't get a free ride. Seems fair to me.

      December 11, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Ken Meyer

      Judith;

      They may be able to opt-out of MEMBERSHIP in the union....but they can't "opt-out" of the dues and/or "representational" fees they charge. Of course, such fees are SUPPOSED to be used for "representation" expense only...but it seems they never are. Instead of (just as an example) of $75/month union DUES, a union will charge non-members $73.50 for "representation" fees....and that for "representation" that the worker often neither needs nor wants. If that's not "forced", then I don't know what is.

      December 11, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  4. BitTorrent

    How's giving a choice to the individual to whether to pay union dues or not anti-union?if the people, the individual, believes in it, they will pay. it will make unions work for their dues!

    December 11, 2012 at 11:18 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • jw

      ok thats a fair statement but than why should that person that has the right to choose and chooses not to be part of the union still get all union benefits??

      December 11, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • janelle

      JW: That's just the way it is in this country now. Everybody gets the same, regardless of whether or not you even work. That's what's fair. Why is this suddenly an issue for people? It wasn't a problem last Nov when you all voted for Liberal policies promoting the same outcome for everyone irregardless of anything, so why is it a problem now? Because now it affects you and before it didn't?

      December 11, 2012 at 11:55 am | Report abuse |
  5. Joe

    Why the protest? They are not taking away any benefits. They are just giving the people a choice to pay dues or not. Dues should not be forced upon anyone. These Union thugs need to go and they need to be replace with labor laws that represent all Americans.

    They are the biggest bunch of criminals in this country. The Union leaders live off the hardwork of others and make millions while their workers are just getting by. Ask this question, who is worse, the CEO or the Union leaders? I will tell you that they are both guilty of the same abuses against the American workers. One is not better than the other.

    December 11, 2012 at 11:20 am | Report abuse | Reply
  6. halo117

    Look at all of the Teachers SKIPPING WORK and you thought that the KIDS comes first.......IT'S ALL ABOUT THE MONEY.

    December 11, 2012 at 11:23 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • jgilbert2020

      If those teachers don't fight for their unions, those teachers are going to take off for better wages/benefits, and then next thing you know we will have tiwanese teachers teaching our students for pennies – how do you think achievement will be after that?

      Also – those unions keep class sizes down – it is a battle every year, but, go into a 3rd grade class with 40 kids and tell me how you can get school work done. You cant. No teacher unions = huge class sizes = smaller amount of individualized instruction = more under educated youth = more drop outs = MORE WELFARE CANDIDATES.

      December 11, 2012 at 12:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • ForsakenPoptart

      Yeah, it's crazy how teachers want to get paid for their work, and want to be able to stand against state-mandated pay cuts. How nuts is that!?

      December 11, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Report abuse |
  7. ChicagoRealist

    I view unions as having a war with all non-union members. It's the closest a legal organization has come to being a mafia. Any group that sides with one side of the fence so deliberately and forces its members to pay a due in effort to have the same rights that should be offered freely is a complete sham. Don't believe the hype, RTW is the right way to go.

    December 11, 2012 at 11:26 am | Report abuse | Reply
  8. BT

    I live in Flint MI, the UAW in my opinion, is pretty much 100% too blame for this city being the way it is right now. Union greed is the reason GM pulled most everything out of here and either moved it to the southern US or Mexico, people here are just too blind too see that it seems.

    December 11, 2012 at 11:28 am | Report abuse | Reply
  9. JR

    Instead of Right to Work it should be named Forced to Pay. No person should be forced to join any union in order to get a job.

    December 11, 2012 at 11:29 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • jw

      fine than they shouldn't get the all the benefits the union has got them either....right?

      December 11, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • zaskar

      Pa is a right to work state. My wife did not belong to union and got union benifits but she had to pay her fair share. Unions like to twist the facts to there advantage.

      December 11, 2012 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • TAXPAYER8

      jw,

      All those over-the-top benefits are not justified by the union worker's skills and work ethic. And they are killing the auto industry. The longer unions have their way the soon er all workers will be replaced by automation or overseas manufacturing. If that's what you want, keep whining for more pay and benefits.

      December 11, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Bill

    Life in America has been significantly changing ever since 9/11/2001. Americans are losing their civil rights, constitutional rights, and harrassed into stressful times that affects the health of all, but the politicians in the states and federal government.

    December 11, 2012 at 11:29 am | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Dan

    My first real job was as a teacher in Flint, MI. When I got my first check, I noticed a deduction for union dues. I wasn't in the union then so I inquired as to why the deduction was there. I was told that that was the way it was and I had no choice in the matter. I didn't like it then and I don't like it now. I was bullied into paying dues to an entity I didn't belong to. I couldn't believe that I had to pay money for something I didn't want. I couldn't believe that my government and the school system supported this extortion. The teachers union supported candidates and policies that I didn't and I had NO say in who or what they supported. In fact, when I voiced my opposition I was laughed at, made fun of, and even threatened (by a bunch of whimpy teachers). I didn't like it then and I don't like it now! I'm very happy that the law is about to be rectified! To the union thugs and all the teachers that supported this un-american law I say,"Ha, ha, ha!!". That's not what I really say, but you won't print that. No unions here or intrusive drug tests, I'm self-employed.

    December 11, 2012 at 11:30 am | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Dave

    A union should not have the right to force you to pay dues. They are not the government.

    If you want to join a union and pay dues the great – the union should not be able to force everyone who works in a state to pay. That is kind of crazy.

    December 11, 2012 at 11:31 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • Paul

      Not really. Why should someone get the benefit of higher wages, due to union representation, but not pay for it?

      December 11, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
    • JR

      Paul – If you aren't a member of the union you are not represented by the union technically.

      December 11, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • jw

      the right to freeload is more like it........they all want what the union offers but don't want to pay for it

      December 11, 2012 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  13. Paul

    When you see your wages stagnate and decrease, remember that you voted for these GOP congressmen. You get what you pay for! You get what you deserve!

    December 11, 2012 at 11:33 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • JR

      I work for the federal government and we have been under a pay freeze for about 2-3 years now. I bet you support that, right?

      December 11, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • remlik

      Good point Paul. So pay teachers as individuals, not as a group. Base it on merit, not a union contract. Agreed, sounds good.

      December 11, 2012 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
    • Greg

      The wages will decrease only to a level that is competitive. In time, that will create more jobs in Michigan. The more jobs created in Michigan will force wages to increase due to supply and demand. The unions want to hold the employer's hostage with wages that are not competitive. What the unions are not admitting is there are other options for companies ready to invest. They can go south and hire employees to do the same thing for less. The union employees can demand higher wages but the investors will not come to Michigan to pay those rates!.

      December 11, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
    • zaskar

      pa is right to work state and the economy is doing well.

      December 11, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Judith

    So while executive wages, compensation, bonuses,and corporate profits soar, who is going to fight to increase stagnant wages and benefits for the middle class? The Koch brothers?

    December 11, 2012 at 11:36 am | Report abuse | Reply
    • JM

      How much money does your union leader make a year? How much does your union leader spend a year on his family and his lifestyle?

      I'm willing to bet your so called union leader makes just as much as some CEOs and lives a lifestyle similar to those CEOs that you and others like him/her are complaining about and are against.

      December 11, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  15. FTC

    I have to agree with BT.

    December 11, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse | Reply
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