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

Hezbollah Chief Says Does Not Want War But Ready for One

VOA's Jerusalem correspondent reports that with an Israeli election looming and Hezbollah's involvement in Syria, neither side appears interested in a wider conflict More

Multimedia VOA SPECIAL REPORT: Despite Danger, Best US Minds Battle Deadly Virus

Scientists at America's premier biological research center race in military confinement to find effective drugs, speedier tests and a safe vaccine amid the deadliest outbreak of Ebola in history More

Kurdish Poet Battles to Defend Language, Culture

Kawa Nemir's work is an example of what he sees as an irreversible cultural and political assertiveness among Kurds in Turkey 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.
Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unresti
X
Heather Murdock
January 30, 2015 8:00 PM
Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Mobile Infrared Scanners May Help Homeowners Save Energy

Mobile photo scanners have been successfully employed for navigational purposes, such as Google Maps. Now, a group of scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology says the same technology could help homeowners better insulate their houses and save some money. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid