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 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 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. SB

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but RTW only means a Union can no longer make union dues mandatory. So, if an organization is really treating its workforce poorly employees can still request representation; a Union can still try to organize. True, RTW means those who do not wish to join do not need to and do not need to pay dues, but those who want representation and benefits can. Freedom of choise.

    December 11, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • amazedamerican

      unions present a unified front.... If they can be bypassed, then they become irrelevant.....employers can now make getting employed contigent on agreeing to never join a union.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      amazedamerican – you really should stop spreading around this false concept that "employers can now make getting employed contingent on agreeing to never join a union." The Labor Management Relations Act makes it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of union membership.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fsjunkie

      There are high school kids, just like I was, getting bullied out of dues on their part-time after school jobs. This is long overdue.

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

    Teachers, Cops, Fire, and Transport workers were at one time the lowest paid and least appreciated folks in society. They got their game together and exacted full revenge on society with the unlimited lifetime benefits and average pay well above those taxpayers who pay them. They are now the 'fat cats', the 'priveleged class'. Drive by your local middle and high schools, count the number of Lexus, Audi, Mercedes, and Acura's in the parking lot. They continue to push for more money in the name of educating the kids. That is nonsense. All we're doing now is fattening up their Swiss bank accounts.

    December 11, 2012 at 2:41 pm | Report abuse |
    • Agoodwin

      Yes, all those "fat cats" making $30,000 a year. Such rich folk that take advantage of the system....

      December 11, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dan

      Union goons attacked women and children

      December 11, 2012 at 5:19 pm | Report abuse |
    • questioning

      What are you talking about? What district (please be specific so I can check this out for myself) are you talking about? I think you are stretching the truth here. Before you post, maybe get your facts straight. Also, it teachers are living high off the hog, why are you not a teacher??

      December 11, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Report abuse |
  3. NC_Right

    They just came out with a new "union " soda machine. You pay twice the price of a regular soda, but the can is only half full...chuckle

    December 11, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • humberto

      What's the matter NC, can't afford that Cadillac: parked in front of your boxcar there.

      December 11, 2012 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Teach305

    The teachers and other public workers just got screwed over. Just like we are getting screwed over in Florida. Good luck getting a raise ever again. No strikes allowed....

    December 11, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Report abuse |
    • jamie

      hard work is how you get raise not by joining a union.

      December 11, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • justageek mean be like the majority of us and work for what we signed up for or go find another job instead of demanding more from the current employer?

      December 11, 2012 at 3:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. DH

    You people who are so anti-union should read "Out Of This Furnace" sometime.

    December 11, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Daddio

      Published in 1941....Really? Not Relevant TODAY.

      Most of the so called "Rights" your Union Bosses have Brainwashed you to believe you will lose, you will not lose at all, they are covered by Fedreal Law now.

      December 11, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  6. DMG2FUN

    They closed schools so teachers could go to these protests. A waste of taxpayer dollars. The unions can go to hell.

    December 11, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Anti Union

    Unions are just an excuse for employees to be overpaid for laziness. Time and time again we've seen companies go out of business or transfer operations oversees because the wages and benefits demanded by the union are out of control. This legislation simply allows employees a choice to be in the union or not. Isn't this the land of the free? Shouldn't people have a choice of whether or not to participate? This is a no-brainer! If unions were so great they shouldn't be worried about declining membership.

    December 11, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steven Harnack

      But management taking home 300 times what the average worker does isn't "out of control"? Blaming union workers for asking for $20.00 per hour while you make $6,000.00 per hour and then claiming that the workers are the problem makes sense? You need to wipe that brown stuff off of your nose.

      December 11, 2012 at 3:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • justageek

      @Steven Harnack – Umm...why shouldn't people earn different wages? Your comparison shouldn't stop there but should be applied to everyone.

      December 11, 2012 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
    • jamie

      stop worrying about how much money others make and just focus on what you are making. just because one person earns a raise everyone should get a raise. That is crazy. YES if you are the owner of a company you will get paid a lot more than your employees.

      December 11, 2012 at 4:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • humberto

      What about the cost of living increasing because of the creative accounting of a devalued dollar by the unscrupulous politicians .

      December 11, 2012 at 5:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • humberto

      You got taxed twice.

      December 11, 2012 at 5:37 pm | Report abuse |
  8. amazedamerican


    Do you know what it means to be in a right to works state? Right to work means the employer can hire or fire , with no all.... look it up

    December 11, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • NC_Right

      Sounds good. When some goober union member is just sitting around sucking the systme dry, you should be able to fire them.

      December 11, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • amazedamerican

      Truely – agree 100% with that... was replying to Mike, who appearently thinks hes still protected in a right to works have the right to unionize, sure...but in a right to work state, the employer can immeadiatly fire you.... end of story.

      December 11, 2012 at 3:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Sorry, that is just not right. Federal anti discrimination laws prevent employers from firing based on race, creed, familial status, union membership, etc.

      December 11, 2012 at 4:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • BMC

      Amazedamerican, You do realize 80% of Michigan's workforce is already under At-Will employment right? 80% of us non union workers have always been under the law that we can be fired for "no reason". Here's a secret... most of that 80% of us have not been fired for no reason. The truth is companies don't fire good employees. That's just not good business practice.

      December 11, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Report abuse |
    • amazedamerican

      They do not have to give a reason for your dismissal.... read the application for employment for a right to works says right on it that "________ is a right to work state. the employer has the right to dismiss the employee at any time. The employee has the 'right' to walk out at anytime. I live in a right to works state.

      December 11, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      I agree with BMC. Plus "right to work" laws and employment at will laws are different concepts. This all started by you claiming the prospective employer could ask a job applicant if they were a union member and not hire them if they were. That you cannot do in any state regardless of whether the state has right to work laws or employment at will laws.

      December 11, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • amazedamerican


      you might want to tell that to Walmart:)

      December 11, 2012 at 4:28 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      Since Walmart has been sued for violating these laws and lost, I am sure they are well aware of the law governing hiring/firing of union members.

      December 11, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • GMON

      What in the world is wrong with that???? If you are a hard worker and valuable to your employer, you will not be fired. WHy should an employer be unable to fire crappy employees? Hello? As I business owner I can have whomever I want working for me and get rid of those i dont.

      December 11, 2012 at 5:36 pm | Report abuse |
    • Searstd0

      That's not what a right to work state means. It means that your employer can't force you to join a union or pay dues. You are taking about the employment at will doctrine which also states that you can't be fired for an illegal reason.

      December 13, 2012 at 3:30 am | Report abuse |
  9. sam

    Just a way for corporations to get cheap labor and have the ability to terminate for miniscual reasons. Come to arkansas if you want to find out just how bad of an idea this really is. They could care less about employees in a right to work state

    December 11, 2012 at 3:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • justageek

      "They could care less about employees in a right to work state" – That is true only for the entry level non skilled non essential employees. Skilled and valuable employees usually get raises and bonuses.

      December 11, 2012 at 3:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • NC_Right

      I agree Justageek

      December 11, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • GMON

      Prove you are valuable and they won't have to find minuscule reasons to fire you

      December 11, 2012 at 5:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • CMON

      That doesn't work in a badly run company.

      December 11, 2012 at 5:45 pm | Report abuse |
  10. jamie

    come to Texas a "right to work state." high school educated and make 130,000 a year without having to pay dues to any union.

    December 11, 2012 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • Agoodwin

      I lived in TX and that is pure BS!! $130,000 – WHERE??? Most jobs paid – WITH A DEGREE – minimum wage. Frieken liar.

      December 11, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • jamie

      you should be happy for your fellow american worker not degrading me.

      December 11, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Vijay

      I am also living in TX, if the company wants to show more profits, they will eliminate employees at any time, This is about Right to Work Conditions. There wont be any pension plan, no rights for fighting pay increases nor bonus. We need unions.

      December 11, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • jamie

      im doing just fine without thanks

      December 11, 2012 at 4:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • GMON

      Hey Vijay, if companies can IMPROVE profits by firing workers, they didn't need them in the first place. Companies don't exist to give people jobs, they exist to give their shareholders profits. Plain and simple. Why we are getting away from that basic capitalistic priciple never ceases to amaze me. Lazy people looking for a handout. Not willing to work for a living....

      December 11, 2012 at 5:42 pm | Report abuse |
  11. NC_Right

    I remeber back when my father was with the teamsters he told me that just a forklift operator made $19 hr. Unskilled labor should not make that much. You can teach a Monkey how to run a forklift.

    December 11, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mack

      No way. Forklifts are complicated. You try driving one mister rocket scientist.

      December 11, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • Mack

      Plus why shouldn't a forklift driver make more than somebody that's sitting around in a cubicle all day. It's hard work and you are exposed to the elements when you go outside. I've ran one while it's sleeting and snowing. Plus $19 isn't that much money when you democrats steal it all to give to blacks.

      December 11, 2012 at 5:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • holtofca

      lol what a fool

      December 11, 2012 at 5:29 pm | Report abuse |
    • humberto

      On the other hand can teach a monkey to steal and watch other people work .

      December 11, 2012 at 5:43 pm | Report abuse |
  12. amazedamerican


    Bottom line is, in a right to work state, the employer holds all the cards – they cant stop you from unionizing, but they can fire you for "sub-standard performance' the instant you do.

    And yes there are ways of asking about your feeling about unions – and then hireing a 'more qualified' applicant if the answer isnt to their liking......I do like your slight rewording of what i said btw:) ....anyways they passed they have to deal with it.

    December 11, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Report abuse |
  13. ronvan

    UNIONS! EXTINCT? YES, unions do get THEIR members better wages & benefits. However, they have lost their focus on HELPING their people! It's all about the money, as usual! Look at Hostess! NO, I am not involved but it would seem that a reduction in pay & benefits is better than none at all! The union refused to budge and now many not only have NO jobs but LOST ALL benefits!? How do you explain that one? ALL unions need to be investigated, have rules changed to keep up with today's world and economy! And Hoffa? Give me a break this is a family with a history, and not a good one!

    December 11, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • humberto

      What right does management have to overpay themselves more than the people actually producing the product. Management had nothing to do with it's development and financing. If anything its sales and R & D destroyed the product.

      December 11, 2012 at 6:02 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Stan Smart

    Union bosses (who make millions for themselves) won't have as much $$$ to give to Dem candidates from worker's dues! So sad...

    December 11, 2012 at 5:22 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ikea

    Something good did happen today! Yay!! Unions – Ain't nobody got time for dat!

    December 11, 2012 at 5:24 pm | Report abuse |
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