Michigan’s controversial right-to-work legislation went into effect Thursday night amid last minute contract maneuvers by teachers unions and a number of protests around the state that appeared to have a very weak turnout. The law stops the practice of forcing workers to pay union dues.
Right-to-work was passed in December by the state’s Republican legislature and signed into law by Republican Governor Rick Synder. Unions and Democrat politicians have waged a public battle against right-to-work legislation, which they fear will significantly hamper union political power.
As reported previously on Breitbart News, many teachers unions across Michigan have tried to keep money flowing into union coffers as long as possible by negotiating long term, last minute contracts that extend requirements to pay unions dues or fines for non-membership. In the days just prior to the new law going into effect, a number of unions across the state chose this tactic. The Macomb Daily reported recently:
This week alone, at least six Macomb County school districts, including the largest, Utica Community Schools, inked deals with their teachers. Others are expected to follow before right-to-work becomes the law of the land Thursday. The Michigan Education Association – Local 1, which represents most county teachers, reported all teachers in all 14 of its Macomb-based districts have reached agreement.
By signing deals before the law is implemented, unions are able to avoid, for the time being, what they consider the more onerous provisions of the legislation. In particular, teachers can still be required to belong to unions and pay dues until the agreements expire.
Critics say teachers and school boards effectively usurped the right-to-work law with the 11th-hour agreements. Some state lawmakers have threatened to impose financial penalties, but union officials maintained they simply took advantage of an opportunity that presented itself.
The unions also tried to lanch a series of protests to coincide with right-to-work going into effect, with little success. A candlelight vigil in Grand Rapids that was widely publicized only appeared to draw a few dozen participants based on photos taken at the event. A protest in the state capitol of Lansing brought in a similarly underwhelming throng:
…the roughly 50 people on the steps of the Capitol this afternoon weren’t celebrating — they were protesting.
They stood with duct-taped mouths that read “Snyder” and “Silenced” and many of them wore red as a gesture of solidarity with the labor community. They were silent throughout the 45-minute protest. The move was symbolic of the voices of working men and women being “silenced” by the Legislature, said Brett Brown, who was representing the United Auto Workers.
In December, a protest in Lansing brought in thousands of union faithful and sparked a number of violent incidents including union goons pulling down a tent with elderly women inside.
The right-to-work law is not expected to have an immediate impact on the Michigan economy; it is being contested by Big Labor, who plan court actions and recalls of politicians who support workers’ right to be free of union coercion.