Friday, December 7, 2012

Right-to-work legislation passed in both chambers of Michigan’s legislature

Lansing, MI – Many concerned worker gathered in Lansing today as Republican legislators scrambled to move forward two bills that had been dormant in their committees for most of the last two years. Today was the last day for this lame duck legislature to move forward a bill in one chamber and still have time to act on the same bill in the other chamber.

As the day began, House Bill 4054 and Senate Bill 116 were identical bills that would allow local units of government to establish so-called right-to-work zones.  If enacted into law, these bills would have blocked enforcement of an all-union shop agreement in that zone.

“If a city, township, county, township, village, public school district, or intermediate school district has authorized a right to work zone within its boundaries by a vote of its governing body or by adoption of a measure initiated by the people, the commission shall not enforce an all-union shop agreement covering employees in that zone that the employer entered into or renewed after the date of adoption of the measure.”

Lawmakers sent misleading signals to labor indicating that the bill before the House would apply to public employees only with an exception being made for police officers and firefighters and the bill before the Senate would apply to so-called right-to-work zones only.

A mid-day disturbance in the capitol building led police to seal the capitol building while many of the lobbyists were out to lunch and a crowd of between two and three thousand people was locked out for most of the day.

Unknown to the workers and lobbyists, identical substitutions were offered in each chamber altering the bills which passed, first in the House and later in the Senate.

The amended language in both bills now reads in part:

“An individual shall not be required as a condition of obtaining or continuing employment to do any of the following:
(A) Refrain or resign from membership in, voluntary affiliation with, or voluntary support of a labor organization.
(B) Become or remain a member of a labor organization.
(C) Pay any dues, fees, assessments, or other charges or expenses of any kind or amount or provide anything of value to a labor organization.”

This is the heart and soul of so-called right-to-work legislation. These bills, when signed into law, will make Michigan the 24th so-called right-to-work state; no ifs, ands or buts!

The bills go on to appropriate $1,000,000 to implement the amendatory act.

What happens now? House Democrats have given notice of intent to reconsider so House Bill 4054 will likely be reconsidered tomorrow. At lease one source is indicating that the session may be called as early as 12:01 AM and we may wake up to discover that the reconsideration hurdle is already behind us.

Senate Bill 116 was referred to the House Committee on Commerce, read the first time and notice was give to discharge committee. The two bills are identical, but it appears that concurring vote in either chamber will enroll the bill and move it forward for the governor’s signature.

Alea iacta est, the die has been cast; all that remains now is a statutory formality of reconsideration, concurrence and running out the clock for five session days followed by a few strokes of the governor’s pen.

Let’s not imagine that this is the last straw and now the working people of Michigan who let Republicans sweep into office in 2010, who let the efforts to recall Snyder, Bolger, Richardville and others fail, who rejected a ballot proposal to protect collective bargaining rights, and who left the Republicans in control of the State House in 2012 will rise up and … well, and what?

We have some work to do.