News / USA

Workers Protest Move Against Unions in US Auto-Producing State

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

UN Fears Rights Violations in China-backed Projects

UNHCHR investigates link between financing development and ignoring safeguards for human rights More

Boko Haram Violence Tests Nigerians’ Faith in Buhari

New president has promised to stem insurgency; he’s scheduled to meet with President Obama at White House July 20 More

Social Media Network Wants Privacy in User’s Hands

Encryption's popularity in messaging is exploding; now it's the foundation of a new social network 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.
Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugeesi
X
Carolyn Weaver
July 06, 2015 6:47 PM
In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Making Music, Fleeing Bombs: New Film on Sudan’s Internal Refugees

In 2012, Sudanese filmmaker Hajooj Kuka went to make a documentary among civil war refugees in Sudan’s Blue Nile and Nuba Mountains region. What he found surprised him: music was helping to save people from bombing raids by their own government. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Rice Farmers Frustrated As Drought Grips Thailand

A severe drought in Thailand is limiting the growing season of the country’s important rice crop. Farmers are blaming the government for not doing more to protect a key export. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Video

Video 'From This Day Forward' Reveals Difficult Journey of Transgender Parent

In her documentary, "From This Day Forward", filmmaker Sharon Shattuck reveals the personal journey of her transgender father, as he told his family that he always felt he was a woman inside and decided to live as one. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Floodwaters Threaten Iconic American Home

The Farnsworth House in the Midwest State of Illinois is one of the most iconic homes in America. Thousands of tourists visit the site every year. Its location near a river inspired the design of the house, but, as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, that very location is now threatening the existence of this National Historic Landmark.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.

VOA Blogs