Photo from Peter Ross - Dec. 6
LANSING (DETROIT FREE PRESS) Large numbers of Michigan State Police officers were around the Capitol building early this morning as Lansing braced for a day of protests related to controversial right-to-work legislation working its way through the state Legislature.
Today's protests are a precursor to much larger ones planned for Tuesday, when thousands of union activists are expected to converge at the Capitol and supporters of right-to-work legislation have also promised a strong presence there. Union members took civil disobedience training in Detroit on Saturday to prepare for the protests.
This morning in Detroit, congressional Democrats are to meet with Gov. Rick Snyder on right-to-work and then brief the media on their discussions.
Snyder will also meet with President Barack Obama during his stop in Michigan today.
Given the legislative movement on right to work bills and Obama's opposition to such laws, there's sure to be an intense exchange between the two leaders.
Snyder was invited, but will not attend Obama's event at the Daimler Diesel Plant in Redford.
Parking meters along Capitol Avenue had bags over them today to prevent on-street parking, and the city of Lansing has announced street closures around the Capitol for Tuesday, with one stretch of street near the Capitol - Walnut between Allegan and Ottawa - closed to both vehicle and foot traffic beginning this morning.
The grounds of the Capitol were empty shortly after 7 a.m. today, but that was expected to change this morning.
The Michigan Nurses Association announced a 10:30 a.m. demonstration at which some of its members will appear on the Capitol steps with duct tape over their mouths.
"This politically motivated legislation will only give corporations and CEOs more power to silence workers, including nurses," spokeswoman Dawn Kettinger said in a news release.
The Michigan Laborers are among the unions also expected to have a presence at the Capitol today, as they demonstrate and lobby lawmakers.
Large numbers of out-of-state protesters are expected to join those from Michigan. Plates bearing Florida, Indiana and Ohio license plates were among those in the parking lot of the Michigan AFL-CIO in Lansing this morning.
Right-to-work legislation makes it illegal to require financial support of a union as a condition of employment.
Gov. Rick Snyder, who since taking office in January 2011 insisted right-to-work legislation was too divisive and not on his agenda, set off a political firestorm Thursday when he announced legislation would be introduced in the Republican-controlled Legislature and he would sign it when it reached his desk.
Demonstrators are expected to sing Christmas carols in a protest outside his gated community near Ann Arbor late this afternoon and this evening.
There were eight arrests at the Capitol Thursday after demonstrators tried to rush on the Senate floor and state police sealed the doors to the Capitol for several hours, saying the move was needed to control crowds and assure public safety. The doors were reopened in response to a court order.
A total of three right-to-work bills received partial approval Thursday, with one passing the House and two passing the Senate. The Legislature could send the right-to-work package to Snyder as early as Tuesday, when the state House is scheduled to meet at 10 a.m. The Legislature doesn't return to session until tomorrow. It's possible that procedural moves on either side if the political isle could push the vote in the controversial legislation to Wednesday.
Late Sunday, the state police said they would be strictly enforcing rules related to the use of Capitol facilities this week.
Signs, amplifying equipment and noise-makers such as whistles are banned inside the Capitol, the department said in a news release.
"Camping or sleeping overnight on the Capitol grounds is not allowed. Sleeping bags, blankets, pillows, and similar bedding items will not be permitted in the Capitol building."
In February and March of 2011, union activists occupied the Capitol building in Wisconsin after Gov. Scott Walker announced plans to strip public employees of collective bargaining rights.
The state police also said "packages and briefcases suspected of concealing stolen items or contraband may be inspected if suspected to be capable of destructive or disruptive use within the building."
Detroit Free Press