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. HenryMiller

    Jennifer Granholm: "President @BarackObama says it like it is: "These so-called #righttowork laws are about your right to work for less.""

    Typical Leftist doublethink. If people think unions are worth joining, they'll join unions. That quote is just an assertion by Granholm that if people don't agree with the Left, they're obviously too dumb to make their own decisions and someone smarter has to make the decision for them and cram it down their throats. As far as she's concerned, individual freedom is worthless.

    December 11, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Average American

      actually, he meant to say "your right to work less". Nothing changed

      December 11, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • J G

      Libs and Unions are joined at the hip. Both about getting more for less using corrupt methods.

      December 11, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
  2. larry

    You can take those Union dues (AKA Obama donations) and stick them where the sun don't shine.

    December 11, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Jayme

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but won't there still be Unions in Michigan? It's just that now people will have the freedom to decide whether they wish to join and support one or not. More freedom is always good in my book!

    December 11, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Obiwanshenobi

      This doesn't affect unions aside from people won't be forced to join them. Unions hate freedom, just like democrats.

      December 11, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • comeonman

      It will mean less union dues collected, and less donations to the Democrat Party.

      December 11, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • Don

      I am under the impression that the real problem is, it gives employers the right to hire non-union (read: "cooperative") workers – especially as "temporary" workers when union employees go on strike. In other words, as soon as the bills are signed, it becomes legal to hire strikebreakers.

      December 11, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Military vet

      No dues, no way to fight against the GOP. When the GOP stops taking campaign contributions from wall street, teh Kock brothers, & companies the maybe it will be fair. But as it stands,"righ to work" laws are just a way to strip Amercians of their ability to fight for better wages, job security, & the right to be treated fairly. The states with "right to work" laws have the highest percentage of poverty, the lowest percentage of beneifts, and least job security. Nothing like selling your children's future down the road for a job that pays poverty wages.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Russell

    What this means is, free people don't have a right to negotiate collectively with a business, such that they can, using the leverage of their united working force, require that businesses require new employees to join the union. There's no law that requires anyone to join a union; it's a business decision among two private parties. This makes it illegal. This takes a right away from the people. Anyone who can't see that is clearly blind.

    December 11, 2012 at 1:23 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mark

      Russell, you are one of the typical union idiots. No one is making joining a union illegal. They are just making it illegal for a union to take your money and use it for promotion of socialism. No one is killing collective bargaining. Unions in and of themselves are good things, but the leadership of almost all unions is corrupt and self-serving. Thank God for the Republicans in Michigan.

      December 11, 2012 at 1:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • J G

      ORRRRRR... it means if people don't agree with the current union, they can start their own separate union that is more interested in the success of the business and themselves than JUST paying the salaries of union cronies and thugs.

      December 11, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Steve- Illinois

    Some Wisconsin unions lost half their membership within months of passing their "can't be forced to join the union" law.
    What happened to all those loyal union brothers and sisters?

    December 11, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • comeonman

      I'm sure the MI unions are well aware of that, hence their fight. Unions aren't charities, they're paid employment compensation mediators.

      December 11, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Darkseider

      As for Wisconsin after the union gutting and right to work being established there the economy is growing and improving. The unemployment rate has dropped nearly a full percentage point from 7.7% to 6.8% and employers statewide added 23,000 additional jobs.

      December 11, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Be aggressive

    Do I think people who work should be forced to join unions? No. Do I think that unions are a vital counter to big business? Absolutely. The entire point of the union is to serve as a balancing agent between employer and employee. While many say that the laws currently in place prevent businesses from ever gaining the kind of power over workers it once had, it is best to consider what could happen if they were ever removed from the equation.
    The unions pour millions yearly into defending their idea of workers rights (sometimes to the point of actually hurting them). businesses also pour as much if not more into finding ways to exploit and dance around the rules so often set in place, because it usually makes good business sense (though it may also hurt the workers). So if you remove one side of the argument, the other side will be able to re-direct it funds towards overturning so many of the labor laws that have for so long protected the worker. Businesses shouldn't have complete power over workers, nor should people be unable to get a Job because they don't want to be in a union. How is this a even an issue?

    December 11, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  7. iamthefredman

    Unions had their time and place. That time ended many years ago. They did some good back in the 1930s and 40s. Worker safety, 40 hour week, benefits, limits on child labor are good things. At that time it was mainly workers/union vs. business owners/management. Sadly, the government got involved and over time, government has taken over the role of unions. Govt now dictates safety procdures, mandatory benefits, how/when/which companies can trade with certain other countries, what companies can sell to other countries, etc. Unions rules are now law on the federal and state levels. The unions themselves are merely money-grabbing shells that enrich the mafia-like union thugs. They simply collect forced dues from their own people who are the ones that can least afford another chunk taken out of their paychecks. End unions now.

    December 11, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  8. TAXPAYER8

    Unions nearly killed the US auto industry. If you've never worked in a unionized plant you won't understand. It's like working on another planet where unskilled workers are encouraged to waste time and receive huge salaries and benefits. I've seen it first hand. The sad part it's all the workers know, so they think it's "normal."

    December 11, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Al

    It's good to work, but it's better to work in a state that does not expect the unions to be the ones controlling who is and who is not hired, who get paid more and who does not. And then let's not forget that if you work for a union you MUST pay the due so that you can enjoy the benefits of being robbed. Support your local worker and let the right to work win over any union.

    December 11, 2012 at 1:32 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Grego

    What is going to happen is the unions (UAW in particular), is going to lose a lot of political power and Democrats aren't going to see the lavish donations anymore. There are some good unions. They are the one's that will retain membership. The UAW will face great financial distress.

    December 11, 2012 at 1:37 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  11. furnfor1

    Funny that Obama calls this law about politics and not economics. He would know.

    December 11, 2012 at 1:42 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Pickles

    I see right-to-work a good thing. Even though I teach at a medical college, I am part of no union. If I was, my salary would be much smaller (union pay controlled). Having the right to choose wither you want to be part of a union or not, that is your freedom. If not, everyone in USA should be forced to drive nothing but honda's. Unions back in the day like Jimmy Hoffa cared about working conditions. Now unions are about money, and could careless about people, unless they start losing money in the process. It's people supporting a monopoly group=failure and poverty.

    December 11, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Hide Behindp

    Public employees have no Right to organize into unions.
    Their work conditions are under direct control of elected officers of the state.
    Public Employe unions are not"Fraternal Organizations" they are no more than "Special Interest Lobbyist".
    As such they are political organizations not labor negotiators as are those in private sector economy.
    When the state powers start interfering in the negotiations between private or corporate bodies and their employees then the state has overstepped its bounds.
    while the state can claim "GEneral Welfare" that can only be used under safety and health issues not the wages or workloads agreed to by workers and their employers.
    The political power of PEU's has caused a huge disruption upon all states economic planning right down to the lowest positions on the local scene.
    Where even schools now have non union employees working at or below poverty level as the unionized PEU.'s wages continue to usurp available state resources for themselves alone.
    In effect they have become another branch of government in almost every state and including on the Federal leval as well.

    December 11, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Report abuse | Reply
  14. David of VA

    Why should i have to pay Union dues to work?? This is not the 1920's!

    December 11, 2012 at 1:51 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • s kel

      Va is one of the worst states to work in,fear of being fired preveils. It happened to my family member, yeah .......right to so call work, what a joke.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Realityblowz

    I am in a union here in Michigan at a utility. No one is forced to pay dues. You can opt out, and people have. Does it create animosity between workers? Yes. They become non existant to the rest of the dues paying workers, and the workplace becomes very unsociable for them. However, they can still get out of the union if they desire. Ironically, roughly 65% of the workers here voted conservative during the last election.

    December 11, 2012 at 1:55 pm | Report abuse | Reply
    • Fran L.

      You think they would pay attention to what the Republican Party is all about. They care about the Koch Brothers. They certainly don't care about workers.

      December 11, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
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