The House passed the bill, 58 to 51, as union opponents of the measure booed inside the Capitol and an estimated 12,000 people rallied outside. The state’s Senate approved the bill last week.
Around 12,000 union members surged on the state capitol in Lansing to voice their concern over a pair of bills they argue could lead to lower wages, poorer representation for workers and a generally bad deal for labour unions.
The protests began peacefully, if loudly, but the strength of feeling over the controversial right-to-work law became apparent with complaints variously of a “union mob” assault, an undemocratic pepper-spraying and a vicious removal of a tent.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed the right-to-work legislation, dealing a devastating and crushing defeat to organized labor in a state that has been a cradle of the movement for generations.
He put his signatures on the bills Tuesday, hours after the state House passed the measures as the chants of thousands of angry pro-union protesters filled the Capitol.
Snyder says a failed ballot proposal to enshrine collective bargaining rights in the constitution triggered the discussion that led to the passage and signing of right-to-work. “I view this as an opportunity to stand up for Michigan’s workers, to be pro-worker,” Snyder told a news conference after he signed the bills.
The laws will take effect 90 days after the end of the legislative session, which means they will probably come into force sometime in April. Existing union contracts will not be changed until they expire, according to a provision of the laws.
On Monday President Barack Obama controversially spoke out against the law during an appearance in Michigan to discuss a separate matter, his plan to avoid nationwide tax rises and deep spending cuts due to take effect next year.
“These so-called right-to-work laws, they don’t have anything to do with economics; they have everything to do with politics,” President Obama said.
“What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money.” The Union support base was crucial in the Obama re-election effort so the president’s comments should have been no surprise.
Mark Mix, President of the National Right to Work Committee said after the bill signing, “In addition to greater freedom for Michigan’s workers, the Right to Work law will provide significant economic benefits for the state’s workers and small businesses. Right to Work laws are proven job creators that enjoy bipartisan support in 23 other states across the country, with 8 in 10 Americans consistently telling pollsters that they think it is wrong for union officials to have the power to order workers fired for refusing to join or pay dues to a union.”
U.S. Bureau of Economic data show that between 1990 and 2010, right-to-work states experienced much higher median economic performance with 1) Employment growth of 25.9 percent for right-to-work states versus 7.9 percent for all other states. 2) Per capita income growth of 117.8 percent vs. 104.3 percent, 3) Population growth of, 29.0 percent vs. 23.6 percent, 4) Manufacturing employment growth of 84.0 percent vs.19.4 percent, 5) Manufacturing wage per worker growth of 108.7 percent vs. 96.1 percent. Thus on every economic dimension examined, right-to-work states experienced significantly greater economic performance than non-right-to-work states.
Michigan becomes the 24th state with right-to-work laws.