By ELIZABETH BASTIAN, Managing Editor
Union workers spent this past weekend receiving civil disobedience training in preparation for the protests planned for yesterday and today in response to the right-to-work bills that went through the Michigan legislature on December 6.
Extra Michigan State police officers have been called to the Capitol building and several parking meters have been covered, as a crowd of over 7,000 is expected in Lansing to support or protest Senate Bill 116, House Bill 4003, and House Bill 4054.
Right-to-work legislation makes it illegal to require employees to provide financial support to unions as a condition of employment. According to the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation, right-to-work laws are neither pro- or anti-union, but focus on the individual freedom of all Americans from “compulsory unionism.”
If the bills are approved by the legislature and Governor Snyder, a process that could be completed as early as today, Michigan will be the 24th state in the country with right-to-work laws. They will join all of the southeast and several states along the Mississippi corridor.
Of the top 10 states in per capita income in 2011, seven were not right-to work states. Of the bottom 10 states with the lowest per capita income, seven were right to work states.
For U of M Dearborn students graduating this weekend, legislation such as this could have a huge impact on their future careers.
“I would say that as far as graduating students are concerned, I think there is a great cause for concern when looking at other states that have adopted right to work, and what has happened to wages in those states,” said David Knezek, a U of M Dearborn student and an incoming Michigan House Representative for District 11. “With decreasing wages, decreased access to benefits, and decreased workplace safety, it will be hard to convince Michigan graduates to stay in this state, and to invest in it as well.”
Governor Rick Snyder stated in 2011 that right to work legislation was too divisive, and was not on his agenda. This position altered this past Thursday, when he announced that the bills would be introduced in the Republican-controlled Congress and that he would sign the bills should they land on his desk.
“I think (Snyder’s position) demonstrates a complete lack of integrity,” said Knezek. “He campaigned as a moderate. He said just a few weeks ago that right to work was not on his agenda and in a period of a day or so, completely reverses his position. It causes me to wonder what outside individuals, what outside funding sources, backed him into a corner and forced this reversal in his position.”
Snyder met with Congressional Democrats Monday morning, as well as with President Barack Obama after his stop in Redford to discuss the controversial legislation.
The Legislature will be called into session at 10 a.m. this morning.