Despite Protests, Michigan Is A Right-To-Work State

fromMR

Michigan is now the nation's 24th right-to-work state, where unions cannot automatically collect dues or fees from workers. The governor signed the law just hours after it was approved by the state's legislature in a day marked by protests.

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RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And I'm David Greene.

Michigan is now the nation's 24th right-to-work state. That means unions cannot automatically collect dues or fees from workers. The governor signed that change into law just hours after it was approved by the state lawmakers on a day marked by protests.

We begin our coverage of the events and their impact with this report from Michigan Public Radio's Rick Pluta.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING PROTESTERS)

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: Kill the bill. Kill the bill...

RICK PLUTA, BYLINE: Thousands of people showed up at the state capitol in Lansing. But they didn't change any minds as Republicans in the State House muscled through a right-to-work bill, over the objections of angry Democrats like State Representative Barb Byrum.

STATE REPRESENTATIVE BARB BYRUM: It has been said that absolute power corrupts absolutely, and this is absolute evidence.

PLUTA: One complaint of opponents was that the right-to-work legislation was put on a fast track by Republican leaders with no public hearings. Another is a provision in the new law that ensures it cannot be challenged by a voter referendum.

Still, Governor Rick Snyder says signing it was the right thing to do.

GOVERNOR RICK SNYDER: I view this as an opportunity to stand up for Michigan's workers, to be pro-worker; to really say here's an opportunity to give workers choice - the freedom to choose.

PLUTA: Needless to say, a lot of union members don't see it that way. Only 17 percent of the Michigan workforce belongs to a union, right now, but the movement remains iconic. In just 20 days, labor in Michigan will celebrate the 1936 sit-down strikes that launched the bargaining clout of the United Autoworkers Union.

For NPR News, I'm Rick Pluta in Lansing, Michigan.

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