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. Cha Cha Brown

    Unions are for untalented, uneducated stupid people. Hence, the democratic party.

    December 11, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Rod

      I don't think you want to say that in public, Cha Cha. The facts are that the Democratic party is the more educated and more intelligent party. There are exceptions of course, but don't fight the law of averages.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Emile_Mervin

    The Republicans are determined to establish a two-class nation: rich and poor. The Republicans' reasoning is that there must be no middle class, and since unions are the reason for the existence of the middle class, then unions must be destroyed. So, not satisfied with sending American jobs overseas in the first step of destroying the middle class, the Republicans are now pushing to demonize and then destroy unions. Eventually, their dream of a rich-poor nation with no middle will be achieved. Is it only me or does anyone see a working class warfare on the horizon if teh Republicans are not stopped?

    December 11, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Steve Lyons

      We have a two class nation today. Producers, and consumers. Producers entail the entire PRIVATE sector, and "Consumers" make up over HALF the nation. Think Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Welfare, Food Stamps and EVERY government employee. These are the consumers of tax dollars and they are NOT producers of tax dollars because taxes they might pay come from their wages which came from taxes levied on the PRIVATE sector.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe

      Who is destroying a union? Why must people be forced to pay in to a union? Sounds more like something that Hitler would come up with than someone here in the USA. You statement is moronic!! The law is just and you are sadly not very bright!

      December 11, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Meme

      You got that right Emile_Mervin. You said it the way it is. No middle class the rich control us. Shame of the GOP.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      If not forcing people to join a union will lead to its destruction than it doesn't sound like that union was worth having. If people see a benefit to joining the union they will voluntarily join and pay dues. Your argument concedes that today's unions can't exist without strong arm tactics and regulations.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • crvv

      Republicans didn't send jobs overseas, high compensation costs here versus overseas did. You gotta stop drinking that partisan kool-aid your union emails you.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe M.

      Oh the horror! People who don't want to join unions won't be forced to as a condition of their employment! What a nightmare!

      December 11, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • amazedamerican

      Mike.... now companies will ask at the interview "and you are non union, right?"...death of the union...

      December 11, 2012 at 2:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      amazedamerican – that is not a question a prospective employer is permitted to ask, just like they can't ask about your religion, pregnancy, etc. The Labor Management Relations Act makes it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of union membership.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Steve Lyons

    The south had better watch out. This might just lead to a rebound in Detroit, if Ford, Chrysler and GM can peel away the unions.

    December 11, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  4. micahel weir

    some of these people on here need to grow a brain, do you think a cop will protect you and take a bullet for 10.00 an hour or a fireman run into a burning house for min wage, think about it , it is all about lowering wages to the fat cat can get fatter

    December 11, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Chris from Chicago

      will a cop or fireman act heroically when s/he's striking because the pensions and benefits get cut or cancelled due to the inability of government to maintain the lavish payments?

      December 11, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Meme

      Joe–you are the one that is not too bright. The governor is taking control of all workers in the state–now let's talk about who the HIlter really is here.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      In the case of cops and firefighters, that fat cat to which you refer would be government.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • crvv

      What's the going wage rate for taking a bullet? $20/hr? $30/hr? LOL

      December 11, 2012 at 2:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • Joe M.

      Cops and firefighters were exempted from the bill. How about you think about it some more.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:35 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steven Harnack

      The law won't stand up in court because the EXEMPTED fire fighters and policemen, meaning, if you are a fireman or a policeman you still have to join a union. They will either have to explain why they singled out one group of people or they will have to include f'men and p'men in the law and lose their bully boys.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kend0

      There used to be volunteer firefighters in my town that would pull you from a burning building...for free!. But those days are over. local 786 saw to that.

      December 11, 2012 at 9:26 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Ann Clinton

    Arizona is a "right to work" state. This has given us a lot of Illegals from Mexico to come in & fill the jobs that tax paying Americans cannot afford to work in. Do the math – minimum wage vs rents and the cost of living.

    December 11, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mike

      Only because the Federal Government will not enforce immigration laws.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mark

      If the illegals are in AZ because of "Right to Work" laws then, following that logic, CA, a "Union Forced" laws state , shouldn't have illegals. Is that really the case?

      December 11, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • vbscript2

      Being a 'right-to-work' state doesn't make it easier for illegals to take your jobs. It does, however, make it harder for your union bosses to live like kings.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. humberto

    Members of the house have no immunity for their actions on the House Floor .

    December 11, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. tokuiten

    This year alone, unions destroyed Hostess, tried to destroy Wal-Mart, and are currently destroying the NHL. The real purpose of unions is to destroy every icon of American culture they can get their grubby hands on. We need to protect American culture and SHUT DOWN THE UNIONS!

    December 11, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Daverelentless

      Executives destroyed Hostess by inflating their wages 400%. The Unions lowered their wages. Read some facts.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • JK

      Some people cant see past their own nose. What if someone does not want to join the union? That person should have the freedom to NOT join them. In turn if someone wants to, let them. From my understanding that is what this bill is ment to to employ. And the union representing these teachers are not helping themselves at all by having their people strike and causing kids to miss school. Everyone in America knows teachers deserve more but people going into teaching know full well the type of money they will be receiving. If you want to make more money teaching our youth then go out and get a Masters degree and attempt to teach at a College or University. Stop looking for handouts from other people or the government who does not owe you a single thing.

      The bottom line is people should have the freedom whether they join a union or not. I do not see why people get so twisted over this.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Be Sane

    The Republicans and THEIR 1% won't stop until all workers are minimum wage and working less than 30 hrs. a week (so they aren't elegable for employer paid healthcare, God forbid some profit be lost). Yes the real answer to prosparity.

    December 11, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Scott

    Look, Michigan, you voted for republican state legislators. After Wisconsin and Ohio, what the h*ll did you expect? This is what republicans do. They bust unions. Duh. You've got a lot of nerve acting surprised.

    December 11, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • vbscript2

      But, you see, that's exactly what they were elected to do. A majority of the population has this crazy notion that you shouldn't have a pay a bribe to the local union in order to work for the employer of your choice. I know that comes as a shock to some of you, but some of us don't actually want to be extorted from by unions.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
  10. average Joe

    Unions need membership, they need funds, and those funds go to support fair wages and a reasonable lifestyle. Why is this under attach? Why does our government feel that they should even be involved? They sure did not get involved when our economy took a dump, employers wanted a bachelor degree or higher to take on a new employee, Oh yah… and they only paid that employee $8/hr. Why? Because corporations could. Jobs that had paid $12, 14, even 16 dollars an hour went to paying minimum wage. This is why we need unions with strong memberships, so that those in the work force can make a fair wage that allows them to cover the cost of living and if they are lucky send one of their kids to college. Try doing that with a college degree while you make eight dollars an hour!

    December 11, 2012 at 2:24 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Meme

    Well if you wish to no longer pay dues that is fine–but you give up your benefits the union negotiated for you too. You cannot have it both ways. And in a few months when the mighty governor says you have to make concessions to balance his budget I will NOT feel sorry for you at all.

    December 11, 2012 at 2:25 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • JK

      Yep, just like we all are making concessions for Obamacare and the governments spending spree. It does not matter who is in office.The burden will always fall on the backs of the working class.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:52 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Libdumb

    Every protester that is there that should have been in work should be FIRED!

    December 11, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. NC_Right

    Its about someone grew a brain and figured out that unions have outlived their use. Every state should be a right to work state.

    December 11, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Daverelentless

    Employers have gone to war against employees before. They lost. The Union is the voice of the working man, trying to deny the middle class a decent wage is now the first shot across the bow.

    December 11, 2012 at 2:27 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Aro

    Guess the UAW will have to start working now else they will just find someone else to do the job. They do calll the UAW yoU Ain't Working for a reason.

    December 11, 2012 at 2:29 pm | Report abuse | Reply
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