Unions plotting strategy in right-to-work battle

Unions and their supporters are preparing to fight historic right-to-work legislation that could change the face of organized labor in Michigan, with civil disobedience training this weekend ahead of a planned Tuesday rally.
AP Wire
Dec 9, 2012

 

A few dozen protesters chanted outside Gov. Rick Snyder's office in Lansing on Friday, but the Capitol was largely quiet — a stark difference from a day earlier, when Republicans pushed their plan though both the House and Senate amid loud protests that resulted in some arrests.

Organizers said civil disobedience training would be held Saturday, and a major rally is planned Tuesday outside the Capitol.

Meanwhile, the state police will monitor weekend gatherings or protests at or near the Capitol, said spokeswoman, Shanon Banner.

"We're listening. We are going to be there just in case," Banner said. "Throughout Friday we maintained a visible presence at the Capitol. We plan to maintain that through the weekend and into next week."

Banner would not reveal trooper levels, but said the agency "assesses resources on a daily basis and adjusts as needed."

A small contingent of troopers will patrol inside and outside the Capitol overnight, state police Inspector Gene Adamczyk said.

Pro-union activities surged Thursday when Republican lawmakers — backed by Snyder — pushed right-to-work legislation through the state House and Senate. Eight people were arrested at the Capitol after trying to rush pass troopers guarding the entrance to the Senate chambers.

Police used pepper spray to deter them.

The laws would prohibit what are known as "closed shops," in which workers are required to join a union or pay fees that are equivalent to union dues as a condition of employment.

The legislature will reconvene Tuesday and could vote on the legislation next week. Snyder has said he will sign the bills into law.

The few dozen protesters who made it Friday into the George W. Romney Building lobby area were met by security guards and the state police. They demanded to speak with Snyder, but instead met briefly with members of the governor's staff before leaving the building. They continued chanting outdoors and then disbanded.

No arrests were made Friday, Adamczyk said.

On Saturday morning, peaceful civil disobedience training will be held in a United Auto Workers union local in Dearborn, just outside Detroit.

"Despite Snyder's efforts to dress the legislation up with benign sounding phrases like 'workplace freedom,' Michiganders understand what's at stake here and will hold elected officials accountable for destroying jobs and reducing pay and benefits," according to a release from Working Michigan, a coalition of community and faith leaders and union and non-union workers.

"People are losing their rights," said John Riehl, president of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 207 in Detroit.

"We've said all alone that unions have to act more like they did in the 1930s. They ... just went on strike," Riehl said.

AFSCME members will be at Tuesday's rally, he added.

Local events also are planned Sunday and Monday across the state in various House and Senate districts.

"It will be everything from holding signs on street corners to canvassing — a whole host of different tactics," said Eddie Vale, a spokesman for the AFL-CIO.

And they're just a sampling of what's in store if right-to-work becomes a law in Michigan, he added.

"What Gov. Snyder needs to keep in mind is that ... he's going to have two more years of this," Vale said.

 

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