[authors: Josh Meeuwse and Amy Moor Gaylord]
Yesterday, the Michigan House and Senate each passed right-to-work legislation amid tumultuous protest by union supporters. Governor Snyder (R) has said that he will sign the bills, which could occur as early as Tuesday. He cannot sign them earlier because of rules requiring a five-day delay between votes in the two chambers on the same legislation.
If passed, the legislation will give private and public sector workers in an organized workforce the right to avoid paying dues, and the right to refuse to become a member of the union. Only police officers and firefighters would be exempt from this rule.
The legislation, and the manner in which it was passed, has caused an uproar among Democrats and union advocates. The right-to-work legislation was introduced almost two years ago, in early 2011, and has lain dormant since. Several weeks ago, rumors began circulating that the Republican-controlled House and Senate might try to pass the legislation during the lame-duck session. The legislation was still a surprise, however, because details of the bills were not made available publicly until they were read aloud on both floors on Thursday. As news of the legislation spread, thousands of protestors attempted to enter the State Capitol, forcing the police to temporarily lockdown the building. The Democrats in both chambers also staged walkouts in protest. Ultimately, the legislation regarding private sector workers passed the House by a vote of 58-52 and the Senate by a vote of 22-16. The legislation regarding public sector workers passed the Senate by a vote of 22-4. The House has yet to vote on the public sector legislation, and has adjourned until next Tuesday, which presumably is when it will vote on the bill.
Republicans decided to advance the legislation after 58 percent of Michigan voters rejected a ballot measure in November that would have amended the Michigan Constitution to guarantee public and private sector workers the right to organize and collectively bargain.