Photo from Peter Ross - Dec. 6
LANSING, Mich. (Detroit Free Press) - The Michigan House and Senate each passed controversial right-to-work legislation today, amid loud protests and a walkout by Democratic legislators.
The state House passed the first right-to-work bill late this afternoon in a 58-52 vote, but that bill can't move on to the Senate until the next session day -- possibly Friday, if a session is scheduled -- because of a procedural move by Democrats who are asking that the vote be reconsidered. The state Senate voted 22-16 to pass a right-to-work bill. Four Republicans -- Tory Rocca of Sterling Heights, Tom Casperson of Escanaba, Mike Nofs of Battle Creek and Mike Green of Mayville -- joined with all the Democrats in opposing the bill.
As soon as the Senate vote was taken, the gallery started shouting "Shame on you."
The vote came after more than three hours of debate, including a nearly hour-long speech from Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Detroit, railing against the bill.
The House and Senate bills are two of three separate right-to-work bills now in the Legislature that will eventually be consolidated into two bills. Both the House and Senate bills deal with private sector employees. The third bill deals with public sector employees, excluding police and firefighters.
That bill passed the Senate by a 22-4 vote this evening.
Democrats in the Senate walked out of the chamber before the vote was taken.
The mishmash of bills is creating head-crashing possibilities over when any of it will make it to the governor's desk.
The quickest the Legislature can now pass the right-to-work bills through both chambers and send them on to Gov. Rick Snyder is five days from the next sitting, or session day, said Ari Adler, a spokesman for House Speaker Jase Bolger, R-Marshall. The next session day could be set for Friday, a day this weekend or Tuesday, Adler said. The five-day clock then starts after that.
The House vote on the bill followed a brief walkout by Democrats to protest refusal by police officials to open the Capitol doors. Right-to-work legislation was introduced in the state House just before 3 p.m., bringing loud protests from Democrats and protesters inside the Capitol building.
Backed by shouts from fellow Democrats, House Minority Floor Leader Kate Segal, D-Battle Creek, insisted that the bill be read aloud in its entirety.
The House clerk, Gary Randall, then read the bill aloud.
Right-to-work legislation makes it illegal to require financial support of a union as a condition of employment.
State Rep. Vicki Barnett, D-Farmington Hills, who spoke against the bill to loud applause from the gallery, said it contains an appropriation of state funds designed to make it referendum-proof. Bills considered appropriation bills cannot be repealed through a ballot measure, as happened with the toughened emergency manager law, Public Act 4, on Nov. 6.
The Republicans are using a bill that was in the House Commerce Committee that was designed to create a commission to handle labor disputes.
They discharged it today from the committee and introduced a substitute bill introduced by Rep. Mike Shirkey, R-Clark Lake, who has been drafting right-to-work legislation.
"An individual shall not be required as a condition of obtaining or continuing employment to ... pay and dues, fees, assessments or other charges or expenses of any kind ... or provide anything of value to a labor organization," the bill says.
Shouts of protesters outside the chamber could be heard as Randall read the bill.
"You're doing this in lame duck because you know next session, you won't have the votes," said state Rep. Brandon Dillon, D-Grand Rapids. "This is an outrage."
Barnett said unions are allowed only in businesses where employees vote for one, but "there is a group of people who want to undermine democracy."
Sen. John Gleason, D-Flint, said it was a "shameful day" in the state Legislature when a bill is allowed to be rammed through with no public hearings.
Democratic senators offered amendments to the bill that would: delay the implementation of the bill for one year; put the issue up to a vote of the people; remove an appropriation from the bill that would make the bill one that couldn't be up for a repeal by voters, and tie the bill to repeals of same-sex benefits for the partners of state workers, the item pricing bill and the tax on retiree pensions. All failed.
"Here we are, less than a month after the election, and the choice voters made at the ballot box shows that voters don't want this type of divisive agenda," said Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing.
Snyder said at a news conference today that the bill is about freedom to choose and equality for Michigan workers.
State Police closed the entrances to the Capitol, preventing hundreds of protesters from entering.
"Some of the unions came up to protest, but they were locked out of this building," Barnett said.
Zack Pohl, executive director of the liberal group Progress Michigan, said on Twitter that union officials had obtained a court injunction shortly before 4 p.m. to reopen the doors to the Capitol.
But state Rep. Dave Agema, R-Grandville, defended the legislation. The bill is about freedom to choose, he said, and "it should be for the hiree to decide" whether to join a union.