Michigan Senate and House pass right-to-work legislation

Both chambers of the Michigan legislature have passed right-to-work measures during the legislature's lame duck session, merely hours after Gov. Rick Snyder promised to sign it.

The Senate passed SB 116 by a vote of 22 to 16 after hours of impassioned debate. That measure deals specifically with private-sector workers. The chamber subsequently passed a bill with similar provisions for public workers. Senate Democrats walked out in protest before the bill was approved on a 22 to 4 vote.

The House passed its bill by a vote of 58 to 52 earlier in the afternoon.

In front of cameras Thursday morning, Gov. Rick Snyder said he wants to make Michigan the 24th Right-to-Work state.

â??When [the legislation] arrives on my desk, I plan on signing it,â?? Snyder said.

As protesters rallied outside, Snyder and legislative leaders unveiled a set of right-to-work bills that would give workers the choice to join a union.

â??I do not view this as something against the unions,â?? Snyder said.

The measures would cover public and private workers. Police and firefighters would be exempt.

Gov. Snyder insists the move is not intended to harm unions or collective bargaining.

But political science professor at UM-Flint, Jason Kosnoski, Ph.D., says, in a union stronghold like Michigan, the bill could have negative repercussions, such as encourage workers to reap the benefits of a union without paying dues.

â??It's like showing up at the door of a country club and saying, â??I'm going to use the golf course but I don't have to pay,â??" Prof. Kosnoski said.

Union workers who joined Gov. Snyder in Lansing Thursday say a right-to-work law would give them a choice they otherwise wouldn't have.

Hamtramck schoolteacher Katie Meister, an AFT member, said, "I plan to stay a union member. I look forward to having choice in which union."

Snyder also said the legislation will create more economic opportunity by attracting employers who otherwise wouldnâ??t look at Michigan. He said Michigan was forecast to create about 111,000 jobs in 2013.

â??My goal is to say that by doing actions like this that make us more open to be pro-worker and make it more encouraging for business, we can hopefully exceed even those numbers,â?? he said.

Now that the Senate and House have passed their versions of the bills, they need approval from opposing chambers. Legislative rules require each chamber must consider the bill for at least five days before voting.

Snyder is expected to sign the bill.