Is Michigan the next Wisconsin? Protesters say yes.
Wed, 16 Mar 2011 05:01:45 GMT —
Update: March 16th 5:10 p.m.
More than 1,000 people are outside the Lansing State Capital, protesting Governor Rick Snyder's budget proposal. Click here for the complete story.
In the meantime, leave us your thoughts on the budget proposal here or on our NBC25 Facebook page.
Camping at the Capitol
America needs to wake up, said a man sitting in the entrance way of the closed Michigan Capitol Tuesday night. He called himself a union iron worker from Detroit, but didn TMt want to give his name. It is almost too late.
He says he fears Michigan is about to follow the path of Wisconsin, and become a state where public workers have no collective bargaining rights.
He is resting on a yoga mat, next to a sleeping bag, just out of the rain.
I came prepared. We will be here all night.
Building up to the Big Protest
He and dozens of other protesters from around the state started their demonstration Tuesday afternoon in the Capitol building TMs rotunda. They called it a sit-in. They wanted to voice their outrage over a bill approved by a 62-48 vote in the Republican-led Michigan House during the day.
There are two things about the bill that anger them.
For one, the legislation gives the state the power to appoint emergency financial managers to run struggling cities and schools. Elected officials would lose power.
This puts democracy at risk, said protester Stephen Haynes. This should concern every citizen in this country.
They TMre elected by us. They shouldn TMt be able to just take them away and put whoever they think is right for the job in charge, said protester John Lepard.
Lepard says he decided to get involved in this demonstration, after seeing a segment by MSNBC TMs Rachel Maddow. She slammed Governor Rick Snyder TMs budget proposals, and his plan to use emergency financial managers. You can find the controversial clip here.
These protesters say their other major concern is the fact that these emergency managers would have the power to throw out contracts. This would include collective bargaining agreements with public employees.
As goes collective bargaining, so goes the middle class, said Chris Michalakis, Secretary-Treasurer of the Metro Detroit AFL-CIO and the Legislative and Political Director for the United Food and Commercial Workers of Michigan.
Protesters inside the capitol refused to leave when facility managers told them it was closing time. Facility managers then called police for back up. Police arrived, but did not force the protesters to leave.
They left a short time later on their own, some yelling, We TMre leaving now, but we TMll be back tomorrow.
Busloads on the way
Flint native and documentary filmmaker Michael Moore had a crew in the capitol during the Tuesday protest. He streamed video of it over his website, letting people know the big demonstration is coming.
Progress Michigan, unions, and other liberal organizations planned the event scheduled for Wednesday.
Moore and various unions paid for buses to bring protesters from across the state to the capitol for the event.
Republicans insist it is about financial responsibility.
It is democracy in action, said Republican State Representative Paul Scott.
Rep. Scott says he likes to see so many people discussing how Michigan should move forward.
We encourage input, he said Tuesday night. These are passionate issues and the statewide discussion about where Michigan goes will be a long at times a painful one, but we will get there.
He says the purpose of the emergency financial manger bill is not to break unions. He says it is meant to force elected leaders in local government to operate within their budgets.
The municipality is at the point of bankruptcy if we TMre taking over. The local elected officials haven TMt done their job and now need state assistance, said Rep. Scott. We want nothing more than local officials running their own municipalities. If they do the job they were elected to do, EFM doesn TMt get triggered.
Ari Adler, press secretary to Republican Speaker of the House Jase Bolger tried to defend the bill during an exchange with protesters Tuesday night. A reporter with the Michigan Messenger caught it on camera. You can see the clip here.NBC25
NBC25 wants to know what you think. Are lawmakers trying to break unions? Or are they trying to prevent your local governments from going broke? Leave your comments below.