News / USA

Workers Protest Move Against Unions in US Auto-Producing State

Thousands of Unions Workers Protest Michigan Right-to-Work Lawi
|| 0:00:00
X
Brian Padden
December 12, 2012 1:21 AM
In the Midwestern city of Lansing, Michigan, Tuesday, labor supporters rallied to protest the passage of a Republican-sponsored "right-to-work" law -- which would limit the influence of organized labor, a key constituency of the Democratic party. VOA's Brian Padden reports the legislation could change the balance of power between workers and management for the entire country.

Thousands of Unions Workers Protest Michigan Right-to-Work Law

Brian Padden
In Lansing, Michigan, labor supporters held a major rally Tuesday at the state capitol to protest the passage of Republican-sponsored right-to-work legislation limiting the influence of organized labor, a key constituency of the Democratic Party. The legislation, in the state that was once the stronghold of the labor movement, could change the balance of power between workers and management in the entire country.
 
Michigan union workers came by the thousands to the state capitol building to protest legislation to ban unions from requiring workers to pay labor dues.
 
What Does the Term "Right to Work" Mean?
 
It is a term lawmakers and business owners use. Right to work laws make it illegal to take away jobs from employees who refuse to join a labor union. It outlaws so-called "closed shops," which require workers to join a union or pay a fee similar to union dues.
 
Why Do Supporters Back Right to Work Laws?
 
Those who favor right to work laws say they are not anti-union because they say the laws do not take away a worker's right to join a union, start one, or even go on strike. They say such laws defend an employee's freedom of choice. Supporters also say states with right to work laws attract more new businesses and jobs. But some economists dispute that.
 
Why So Some People Oppose Right to Work Laws?
 
Opponents argue that such laws strengthen management at the expense of unions who fight for better working conditions and fair wages. Opponents to right to work laws say such regulations are aimed at weakening unions and could lead to arbitrary pay cuts, firings, and fewer benefits. They also say such laws allow workers to enjoy the same benefits as unionized workers without having to pay union dues.
 
The two bills at the center of the debate were approved by the state House of Representatives Tuesday, following recent passage by the Senate.  The measures deal with public sector workers and the private sector.  Republican Governor Rick Snyder says he intends to sign these bills into law.
 
The laws would likely reduce the membership and influence of organized labor in the state that gave rise to modern industrial unions.  Michigan is the center of the U.S. automotive industry and unions like the United Auto Workers, which was founded in Detroit in 1935, are considered the heart of the nation's labor movement.  
 
Union members like construction worker Fred Keith see these measures as an attempt to cut worker wages and protections.
 
“All this is going to do is be a downward spiral for the pay rates in the area, which are going also to be a downward spiral for the conditions, which is going to affect everybody," he said. 
 
Michigan union workers backed President Barack Obama overwhelmingly in his re-election bid and the president spoke out against right-to-work measures when he visited a Detroit area auto plant.
 
“You know, these so-called right-to-work laws, they do not have to do with economics, they have everything to do with politics.  What they are really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money," he said. 
 
The conservative supporters of the bills, including a group financed by billionaires Charles and David Koch, opposed the president in the national election and backed similar divisive legislative battles in the  bordering states of Wisconsin, Ohio and Indiana.  Michigan would be the 24th state in the country to have right-to-work laws. 
 
The labor policy director of the conservative Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Vincent Vernuccio, says attracting business to Michigan, not politics, is driving this initiative. 
 
“The lawmakers in Michigan said we have a state [Wisconsin], saw that we have a state, right next to us on the border that is becoming more attractive for business, more attractive for workers and for job creators, and we have to do something about it in response," he said. 
 
Representative Tim Greimel, the incoming leader of the Michigan House Democrats, has criticized the governor for supporting corporate interests over the public good. 
 
“He wants to turn Michigan into the same low wage environment that we see in China, so that big corporations and fat cat CEOs do not have to go to the inconvenience of shipping products back and forth to China.  They can do it right here in the state of Michigan," he said. 
 
But he says Democrats do not have the votes to stop the bills from becoming law.  Republicans have a strong majority in the state legislature.  If enacted, legal challenges will likely follow and the issue promises to play a prominent role in future elections.

You May Like

Multimedia Social Media Documenting, Not Driving, Hong Kong Protests

Unlike in Arab Spring uprisings, pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong aren't relying on Twitter and Facebook to organize, but social media still plays a role More

Analysis: Occupy Central Not Exactly Hong Kong’s Tiananmen

VOA's former Hong Kong, Beijing correspondent compares and contrasts 1989 Tiananmen Square protest with what is now happening in Hong Kong More

Bambari Hospital a Lone Place of Help in Violence-Plagued CAR

Only establishment still functioning in CAR's second city is main hospital More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plainsi
X
October 01, 2014 10:45 AM
It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video The Legacy of Jimmy Carter: The Preacher from Plains

It is common in the United States to see tourists flock to sites associated with America's presidents. Some are privately owned and others are run by the National Park Service or the National Archives -- but most have helped draw business and people into the towns and cities where they are located. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there is one particular presidential hometown that is unique in what it has to offer those who make the trip.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Draw New Supporters on National Holiday

On the 65th anniversary of the founding of Communist China, Hong Kong protesters are hoping to stage the largest pro-democracy demonstration since the 1989 Tiananmen protests. VOA's Brian Padden visited one of the protest sites mid-day, when the atmosphere was calm and where the supporters were enthusiastic about joining what they are calling the umbrella revolution.
Video

Video India's PM Continues First US Visit

India's prime minister is on his first visit to Washington, to strengthen political and economic ties between the world's oldest and the world biggest democracies. He came to the U.S. capital from New York, the first stop on his five-day visit to the country that denied him an entry visa in the past. From Washington, Zlatica Hoke reports Modi seemed most focused on attracting foreign investment and trade to increase job opportunities for his people.
Video

Video Malaysia Struggles to Stop People Joining Jihad

Malaysian authorities say militant groups like the so-called "Islamic State" have used social media to entice at least three dozen Malaysian Muslims to fight in what they call "jihad" in Syria and Iraq. As Mahi Ramkrishnan reports from Kuala Lumpur, counterterrorism police are deeply worried about what could happen when these militants return home.
Video

Video Could US Have Done More to Stop Rise of Islamic State?

President Obama says airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Syria will likely continue for some time because, in his words, "there is a cancer that has grown for too long." So what if President Obama had acted sooner in Syria to arm more-moderate opponents of both the Islamic State and the Syrian government? VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports from the United Nations.
Video

Video Treasure Hunters Seek 'Hidden Treasure' in Central Kenya

Could a cave in a small village in central Kenya be the site of buried treasure? A rumor of riches, left behind by colonialists, has some residents dreaming of wealth, while others see it as a dangerous hoax. VOA's Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Ebola Patients Find No Treatment at Sierra Leone Holding Center

At a holding facility in Makeni, central Sierra Leone, dozens of sick people sit on the floor in an empty university building. They wait in filthy conditions. It's a 16-hour drive by ambulance to Kailahun Ebola treatment center. Adam Bailes was there and reports on what he says are some of the worst situations he has seen since the beginning of this Ebola outbreak. And he says it appears case numbers may already be far worse than authorities acknowledge.
Video

Video Identifying Bodies Found in Texas Border Region

Thousands of immigrants have died after crossing the border from Mexico into remote areas of the southwestern United States in recent years. Local officials in south Texas alone have found hundreds of unidentified bodies and buried them in mass graves in local cemeteries. Now an anthropologist and her students at Baylor University have been exhuming bodies and looking for clues to identify them. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Waco, Texas.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid