Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said today he'll sign right-to-work legislation once it reaches his desk, as Republican lawmakers prepared to introduce a bill in the legislature's lame duck session.
According to the Detroit Free Press
, Snyder, a Republican who in the past has shied away from the controversial issue as "too divisive," said in news conference that he now supports a right-to-work measure encompassing public and private employees, with the exclusion of police and firefighters.
“The goal isn’t to divide Michigan. It is to bring Michigan together,” the governor told reporters.
As he spoke, the Free Press reported that hundreds of union protesters had "stormed the Capitol and the governor’s office, vociferously voicing their opposition to the plan."
The newspaper said the state police had shut off access to the Capitol around 12:30 p.m. because it was crowded with opponents and supporters of the legislation.
If signed into law, Michigan would become the 24th state in the country to pass some form of right-to-work legislation, making the payment of union dues optional and striking a serious blow to collective bargaining rights.
Michigan, home to the United Autoworkers, has one of the highest union membership rates in the country.
In announcing his reversal on the issue, Snyder cited a recently passed right-to-work law in Indiana, which he said had already resulted in increased economic activity and business growth.
He said it was time now, the Free Press reported, for him "to be a good leader and stand up and take a position."
He added that the issue is about "freedom to choose" and "fairness and equity in the workplace."
The decision by Snyder and Republicans who control the legislature was apparently prompted by the voter rejection in November of a ballot initiative that would made the right to collective bargaining a part of the state constitution.
But opponents of the right-to-work legislation say they still plan to fight passage of the measure, calling it an effort to suppress wages and benefits for workers that would ultimately hurt the state economically.
"I am adamantly opposed to this,” said Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, who took part in rallies against the measure on Thursday.
"I think it’s a disaster for the state. I think it’s shortsighted and vindictive," he told the Free Press, predicting "a civil war" over the issue.
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