* Michigan would become 24th "right-to-work" state
* Republican-controlled legislature expected to pass
* Up to 10,000 expected to protest
By Bernie Woodall
LANSING, Mich., Dec 11 As many as 10,000 labor
union workers from throughout Michigan and the U.S. Midwest are
expected to march on the Michigan Capitol building in freezing
temperatures on Tuesday to protest likely passage of a
The Republican-controlled Michigan House of Representatives
will consider two and perhaps three bills on Tuesday that would
prohibit unions from compelling private sector workers and
government employees to pay union dues.
The right-to-work movement has been growing in the country
since Wisconsin fought a similar battle with unions over two
Michigan would become the 24th state to enact right-to-work
provisions and passage of the legislation would deal a stunning
blow to the power of organized labor in the United States.
Michigan is home of the heavily unionized U.S. auto
industry, with some 700 manufacturing plants in the state. It is
also the birthplace of the United Auto Workers, the richest U.S.
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.
Right-to-work laws typically allow workers to hold a job
without being forced to join a union or pay union dues.
Last Thursday, when the senate passed two bills and the
House also considered right-to-work legislation, protesters
converged on Lansing. Several people were arrested and officials
sealed the Capitol from the public.
"We support people exercising their constitutional rights to
protest," said Inspector Gene Adamczyk of the Michigan State
Police. "But we need them to do it in an orderly manner."
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.
School teachers are among those expected to march on the
Capitol on Tuesday. Several school districts will not hold
classes on Tuesday due to teacher and staff absences, Detroit
newspapers and television stations reported.
Labor leaders such as UAW President Bob King say they were
blindsided by Republican Governor Rick Snyder, who last Thursday
announced he was supporting right-to-work after nearly two years
of saying the issue was too divisive.
King was unsuccessful in more than a week of talks with
Snyder and his staff in staving off the right-to-work push by
the Republicans, who will lose several seats when newly elected
members take their seats in the state house and senate in
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
and Chrysler, which is majority owned by Fiat SpA