Photo from Peter Ross
File photo: Gov. Rick Snyder
LANSING, Mich. (WZZM) -- Michigan is now a right to work state.
After hours of debate, the state legislature passed two bills that give workers the right to choose whether or not they want to be part of a union.
The legislation came as thousand of protestors took the streets outside the Capitol building in Lansing.
"The right to work is going to affect everybody. I mean, union, non-union, everybody. Down to salaries, pensions, it will all take a hit," said Blain Tarrant, a pipe-fitter from Bath.
The right-to-work laws bar unions from collecting mandatory fees from workers, if they choose not to be represented by the union.
Less than five hours after the final vote, Gov. Rick Snyder called a news conference.
"Just a few minutes earlier, I signed these bills into law," said Snyder.
The Governor said the legislation gives workers the freedom if choice.
"I think it's about better jobs for Michigan," said Snyder. "If you look at Indiana, they have companies coming that didn't previously want to come to their state."
The news that the bills had been signed into law came as a surprise to many. They expected Snyder to sign the bills on Wednesday.
"The Governor just signed the bill into law, behind guarded doors," said State Sen. Gretchen Whitmer, the Democratic leader in the Senate, "because he doesn't want the public to tell him how they feel about this."
By the time the announcement was made, most of the protestors had gone home. Some of them re-convened as soon as they heard the news.
"To take this kind of serious legislation and pass it is democratically wrong," said Bob King, United Auto Workers president.
King says for those who lost the battle Tuesday, the work has just begun. They're looking ahead to election year 2014. That's when Governor Snyder will be up for re-election, along with many of the House and Senate lawmakers who voted on both sides of the bills.