* Obama calls it 'right to work for less money'
* Up to 10,000 expected at protests
* No sign Republicans will back off
* Michigan more important to unions than Wisconsin
By Bernie Woodall
LANSING, Mich., Dec 10 Republicans are likely to
approve contentious "right-to-work" measures in the union
stronghold of Michigan on Tuesday despite thousands of people
converging on the state capital to protest proposed laws they
say would lower wages and hurt workers.
Organizers expect as many as 10,000 unionized workers to go
to the state capital of Lansing on Tuesday, some taking a day
off from jobs, to demonstrate against the laws which would make
union membership and dues payment voluntary.
President Barack Obama waded into the debate during a visit
to the Daimler Detroit Diesel plant in Redford, Michigan on
Monday, criticizing the Republican "right-to-work" effort.
"What they're really talking about is giving you the right
to work for less money," Obama said to loud applause from
workers. His visit to Michigan was scheduled before the issue
Michigan is far more important to the labor movement than
Wisconsin, where a similar battle was fought with unions over
the last two years. Michigan is the home of the U.S. auto
industry, with some 700 manufacturing plants in the state, and
is where the United Auto Workers union was born.
While the new laws are not expected to have much immediate
impact because existing union contracts would be preserved, they
could, over time, further weaken the UAW, which has already seen
its influence wane in negotiating with the major automakers.
Both Democratic and Republican sources said approval of
Michigan becoming the 24th "right-to-work" state is almost
assured as Republicans have majorities in the legislature.
Governor Rick Snyder has vowed to sign the legislation.
AIM TO PROHIBIT CLOSED UNION SHOPS
So-called right-to-work laws would prohibit closed union
shops that compel workers to pay union dues, which for members
of the UAW is equal to their pay for two hours a month.
On Monday, only a handful of protesters were seen outside
the Capitol building as the legislature was not in session.
Last Thursday, when the measures were rushed to preliminary
approval in both chambers of the legislature, a crowd of
protesters rallied outside the Capitol and several hundred got
inside. Some people were arrested and the Capitol was
temporarily closed to visitors for safety reasons, according to
Michigan State Police Inspector Gene Adamczyk.
Adamczyk said his officers along with local fire marshals
will work to keep the Capitol open throughout the legislature's
work day on Tuesday, but security was expected to be tight.
Jase Bolger, the Republican House Speaker, said he expects
two bills to pass the House on Tuesday covering public and
private sector unions. He dismissed Democratic charges that the
"right-to-work" issue has not been properly aired with public
"We've debated this in the legislature for almost two years
now," Bolger said.
Michigan Democratic leaders accused Bolger and the
Republicans of ramming the "right-to-work" laws through during a
"lame duck" session of the legislature.
Political analysts have said bills were rushed to a vote
last week because Republicans lost five Michigan House seats in
the November election and their majority would shrink in
January, when the new legislature is seated.
"We're under no illusions that we are likely to stop this
thing," said Democratic House member Tim Greimel, who will be
the House minority leader in the new year. "But the least the
people of Michigan deserve is some semblance of a deliberate
Michigan's Democratic U.S. Senator Carl Levin and six
Democratic congressmen met with Snyder on Monday and urged him
to veto the "right-to-work" laws.
The governor said he would seriously consider their appeal
but his office later issued videos showing workers who support
"right-to-work" and there was no indication he would back off.
Michigan has the fifth highest percentage of unionized
workers in the United States at 17.5 percent and the Detroit
area is headquarters for General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co