Lawmakers Representing Berkley, Huntington Woods React to Right-to-Work Legislation
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Lawmakers representing Berkley and Huntington Woods reacted along party lines Tuesday after Gov. Rick Snyder signed right-to-work legislation into law following a day of massive protests at the Capitol in Lansing.
The bills' passage Tuesday in the state House concluded an unexpected drama that began last week when Snyder, who had said the right-to-work issue was not on his agenda, did an abrupt about-face and the controversial legislation was pushed through the House and Senate.
"None of the right-to-work bills ever went to committee for all sides to weigh in on," said Sen. Vincent Gregory, D-Southfield, who represents the 14th District including Huntington Woods. "It was just rammed through without any discussion."
Gregory opposed the bills, as did Rep. Ellen Lipton, D-Huntington Woods, who represents the 27th District including Berkley and Huntington Woods.
The legislation prohibits unions from requiring workers, including government and school employees, to pay dues as a term of employment; it is not open to a voter referendum. Proponents argue the legislation is about workplace fairness and attracting business to the state, but opponents say it aims to undermine the power of unions and the Democratic party and will mean lower wages and reduced benefits for workers.
"The question is: Should it be illegal to pay a third party to keep your job?" said Sen. John Pappageorge, R-Troy, who represents the 13th District including Berkley. "My answer is yes and that's why I voted the way I did."
Pappageorge, who favored the legislation, said right-to-work rules will not impact collective bargaining and will have one of the following outcomes.
- Workers can remain in their unions and nothing will change.
- Individuals can pay an agency fee that is less than the cost of full membership and covers the cost of negotiations, grievances, etc.
- Workers can opt out of their unions.
- Members-only contracts can be established, in which only those who pay membership dues would be covered in negotiations, grievances, etc.
"Unions may have to work harder to show value to members but I doubt that unions will go away," Pappageorge said.
In a statement Tuesday afternoon, however, Gregory was explicit in his disappointment over the law's approval.
“Our unions are an integral part of our economy and our state’s auto manufacturing industry, but they also represent our public service workers, our nurses, our police officers, our fire fighters, our corrections officers and our teachers," he said. "Michigan workers have been relentlessly marginalized by the Snyder administration and legislative Republicans over the last two years, but with the House Majority’s passage of the so-called right-to-work legislation today, Michigan Republicans have turned their backs on Michigan workers for good.”
"I have signed these bills into law. ... We are moving forward on the topic of workplace fairness and equality." – Gov. Rick Snyder
“With a stroke of his pen, Governor Snyder erased not only a decades old bipartisan consensus in support of workers' rights, but his credibility as well. We learned that we can no longer take Governor Snyder at his word and he certainly is unwilling to stand up for Michigan's middle class families. This is a sad day for Michigan.” – U.S. Rep. Gary Peters, D-MI
“In addition to greater freedom for Michigan’s workers, the Right to Work law will provide significant economic benefits for the state’s workers and small businesses. Right to Work laws are proven job creators that enjoy bipartisan support in 23 other states across the country, with 8 in 10 Americans consistently telling pollsters that they think it is wrong for union officials to have the power to order workers fired for refusing to join or pay dues to a union.” – National Right to Work Committee president Mark Mix, via the Detroit Free Press
“The effort to reverse this wrong-headed action and restore a Michigan that encourages middle class jobs and race to the top for its workers – not a crash to the bottom – begins today," – U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-MI, urging an immediate push to repeal the law, via the Huffington Post
"What concerns me is the process – locking the doors of the Capitol that have to be reopened by court order, no public hearings or input. ... It just seems like retribution-based legislation." – Berkley School District Board of Education President Paul Ellison
“We are really excited and energized and we want to stand in solidarity with the courageous lawmakers. I have an 8-month-old and a 2-year-old and I want them to be able to grow up in Michigan and find a job.” – Annie Patnaude, deputy state director of the Michigan chapter of Americans for Prosperity, via the Detroit Free Press
"The governor’s reversal and his misleading language aren’t about workers. It’s about politics. It is deeply unfortunate that the governor and other Republicans in Lansing have put politics ahead of the collective bargaining rights of Michigan workers." – U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-MI
"As Michigan's economy is recovering, we need to work together to build a stronger economy, not tear our state apart with divisive political issues. By passing this so-called ‘right to work' bill, Michigan is taking a major step backward. It will mean lower wages and fewer benefits for every worker, and a poisoned political environment." – U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-MI