LANSING (WWJ) – Michigan House Democrats say they walked out as the Republican-led chamber was debating a right-to-work bill to help push for the Capitol to reopen and allow throngs of protesters inside.
House Democratic spokeswoman Katie Carey said Thursday that party members left after an Ingham County judge ordered the building reopened. They sought to persuade Capitol authorities to reverse their decision to close the building as a safety measure.
The Michigan Democratic Party called Thursday “a sad day in Michigan history” after State Police used pepper spray to subdue right-to work-protesters trying to rush the state Senate.
“Speaker Bolger and Senator Richardville have taken the unprecedented and shameful step of closing the Capitol building to Michigan citizens, pepper-spraying and arresting people who are attempting to exercise their right to free speech,” the Michigan Democrats said in a statement.
Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday spoke out in support for the state GOP’s right-to-work legislation after previously saying the issue was “not on [his] agenda.”
“At their news conference this morning, Snyder claimed this legislation will help workers. If they’re interested in helping workers, attacking them and arresting them for speaking out is completely counterproductive. If they’re interested in helping workers, shutting down dissent is not the way to do it,” the party said. “Bolger and Richardville have shown their true colors. They have closed the Capitol, so they cannot hear the people. They are planning to rush through legislation during lame duck session, so they don’t have to listen to the people. And they are planning on using legislative tricks, so the people have no recourse to put this issue on the ballot for a statewide vote.”
Union leaders are among those speaking out against the bills.
This includes Detroit Federation of Teachers President Keith Johnson who said while the governor claims the bill is not a union-buster, he doesn’t think his union will be able to survive it.
Johnson said fears that many teachers will opt out and stop paying — while the union would be forced to remain responsible for them.
“That same union that you do not belong to and that you do not pay agency service to, would have to represent you — they would have to protect your rights to have a job; they would have to protect your benefits; they would have to protect your employment,” he said.
Johnson said the union would not be able to continue to provide those services with so fewer people paying dues.
UAW President Bob King is calling on union members and supporters to speak out against right-to-work calling it “a bad policy” for Michigan.
“Right-to-work lowers wages, creates more income inequality, creates more inequality between womem and in the workplace, between white and people of color in the workplace,” King said.
King, however, concedes the legislation will likely pass and be signed by Governor Snyder. He says the focus will shift in 2013 to efforts to repeal the law.