In dramatic fashion, the Michigan House of Representatives on Tuesday approved the controversial right-to-work legislation despite thousands of rowdy protesters outside the Capitol.
The House first approved House Bill 4003, 58-51, establishing a right-to-work law for public sector unions. A second bill, Senate Bill 116, which applies to private sector unions, was approved more than an hour later, 58-52.
Republicans, however, invoked a parliamentary procedure to prevent House Democrats from delaying final passage of Senate Bill 116 until Wednesday. The Republicans could withdraw their motion to reconsider later Tuesday, advancing the bill to Gov. Rick Snyder's desk.
"We're hoping to get the bills to the governor as soon as we can," said Floor Leader Jim Stamas, R-Midland. "Whether that's today or tomorrow remains to be seen."
Snyder's plans to sign the bills could be postponed until Wednesday because of the parliamentary delay in the House. The bills also need to get a final vetting by the governor's office and be printed, a process that can take several hours.
"We're kind of in a holding pattern right now," Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said just before 4 p.m.
Wurfel said protesters also could be an impediment to safely holding a bill signing ceremony at the governor's office in the Romney building, where union members held a sit-in earlier Tuesday afternoon until Michigan State Police formed a human wall around the front of the building.
House members engaged in nearly three hours of impassioned debate on the floor as thousands of protesters chanted inside and outside the Capitol building. Crowds were estimated at 10,000 outside the Capitol, while the building was at its 2,500-person capacity.
Republicans said the bill would change Michigan's national image as a bastion of union power.
"Today is a game changer for Michigan, for its workers and for its future," said House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall.
At issue Tuesday was a right-to-work package that was earlier introduced in Lansing on Thursday, and the state House and Senate voted on the bills the same day.
The right-to-work measure prohibits requiring employees to join a union or to pay fees comparable to union dues to be employed. Supporters say right to work provides freedom of association for workers and a better business climate, and they're continuing to lobby lawmakers for final passage.
Democrats said the legislation would lower financial resources of labor unions and ultimately lead to lower wages for Michiganians.
"You are unleashing corporate greed," said state Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Detroit. "This will be your legacy, governor."
Rep. Brandon Dillon, D-Grand Rapids, called the bills "petty retribution" for labor unions seeking to enshrine collective bargaining in the state constitution through Proposal 2, which voters defeated.
Dillon blasted Republicans for fast-tracking the bills through the Legislature in six days without a public hearing.
"Good ideas get debated and bad ones get rammed through with police protection in a lame-duck Legislature," Dillon said.
Tuesday's action caps two years of clamoring by some Republican lawmakers to pursue a right-to-work law after the GOP took over total control of state government in 2010. Snyder has long said the issue wasn't on his agenda, but pressure to purse the legislation increased after the defeat in November of Proposition 2 in a statewide referendum, which was offered to counter the trend when Indiana became a right-to-work state in February.
"This has been planned for months, although just sprung on us," said Rep. Barb Byrum, D-Onondaga.
Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons, R-Alto, defended the legislation by noting her husband, Brad Lyons, is a unionized Kent County corrections officer and relies on his union to settle workplace disputes.
"Today we are a proud union family," Lyons said. "Tomorrow, we'll be a proud union family by choice."
From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20121211/POLITICS02/212110393#ixzz2Emg5ioZD