As hordes of union protesters clashed with police and tried to mob the building, the Michigan Legislature gave final approval to “right to work” legislation and sent it to the governor for an expected signature.
Police on horseback and in riot gear had to push back crowds of foaming-at-the-mouth union supporters who were incensed that politicians would do anything to reduce unions’ hold on power.
Michigan is considered a stronghold of America’s union movement, and the state has suffered through the results. It has the highest union membership in the Midwest and one of the highest unemployment rates in the country.
As Gov. Rick Snyder and Republican lawmakers have tried to turn the state’s economy around, the unions have bogged down the process, finally resulting in the current showdown.
Proponents say the legislation is about giving workers the choice not to belong to dues-eating unions, while opponents say it’s about weakening the unions’ power. Both sides are right.
The stranglehold unions have had on public and private workers has long been at the heart of economic woes in the Rust Belt. And any effort to limit the unions’ power meets with staunch resistance.
Just on Tuesday, 26,000 children in Michigan had to miss school because their teachers called in sick to protest the right-to-work legislation.
It might not be any great loss, however, as under the unions, only 7 percent of Detroit eight-graders are considered proficient in reading, and only 4 percent are proficient in math, according to the Department of Education.
Statewide, only 32 percent scored as proficient in reading on standard tests, and 31 percent scored as proficient in math.
The reading scores have not improved at all in the past 10 years, and the math scores have gone up only 3 percent.
The right to work battle has echoed similar fights in Indiana and Wisconsin. Wisconsin one-upped Michigan, however, by stripping most public sector workers of the right to collective bargaining.
Incoming House Democrat leader Rep. Tim Greimel vowed that anyone who backs the right-to-work legislation “will be held accountable at the ballot box in 2014.”