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Unions condemn Michigan right-to-work laws

December 14, 2012

LANSING, MICH. (Dec. 14, 11:30 a.m. ET) — The United Steelworkers and United Auto Workers unions joined with other unions in condemning Gov. Rick Snyder’s Dec. 11 signing of two right-to-work bills, hours after the Michigan House of Representatives passed them.

“Calling this bill ‘Right-to-Work’ is a lie,” said USW International President Leo W. Gerard regarding one of the new laws, which forbid private-sector unions from requiring non-union workers to pay union dues. One of the laws forbids the same from public employee unions, although it exempts police and firefighter unions.

“The only rights it will provide are the rights of millionaires and billionaires to do whatever they want to working people,” Gerard said. “This is wrong for Michigan and wrong for hard-working people across the United States.”

Michigan is the 24th state to establish right-to-work laws. Supporters of the laws say they protect the rights of individual workers and foster job creation. Opponents, however, say such laws starve unions of funds needed for collective bargaining with management.

Right-to-work laws are doubly unfair, opponents say, because non-union workers benefit from labor contracts negotiated by unions.

Thousands of Michigan residents picketed the Michigan State House in Lansing Dec. 11 and 12 in protest of the bills. The UAW estimated the crowd at over 17,000.

“Snyder rushed the bill through in just six days, with no public hearing,” the UAW said. “The bill reverses decades of balanced labor law in Michigan, which has yielded stable industrial relations, good middle-class jobs and broadly shared prosperity. Studies have shown that workers in so-called ‘right-to-work’ states earn an average of $1,500 less annually.”

At a news conference, Snyder blamed the unions for bringing the right-to-work issue to the forefront by sponsoring Proposal 2, a ballot initiative that would have outlawed Right-to-Work laws in Michigan. The measure was defeated in the Nov. 6 election.

“I don’t believe we would be standing here in this time frame if it hadn’t been for Proposal 2,” Snyder said.