LANSING, Mich. — Democrats pushed Monday to stall the right-to-work proposals sailing through the Michigan Legislature, and President Obama used an appearance at a suburban Detroit engine plant to blast the GOP-led efforts to limit union powers.
U.S. Sen. Carl Levin and Michigan Democrats in the U.S. House met with Gov. Rick Snyder on Monday morning in Detroit and urged him to veto the legislation, which could get final passage as early as today when the Legislature reconvenes. Levin said Snyder pledged to “seriously consider” the group’s requests, including their demand for a statewide referendum on the issue.
Obama added his voice to the cause during an appearance at a plant in Redford, mocking the “right to work” label that supporters have used to describe the efforts to prohibit requiring non-union employees to financially support unions at the workplace.
“These so-called right-to-work laws, they don’t have anything to do with economics; they have everything to do with politics,” Obama said. “What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money.”
The Michigan measures have sailed through the legislative process since Thursday, when the state House and Senate introduced and swiftly approved them. Snyder has previously said he would sign the legislation, which still needs additional votes because the versions approved last week were slightly different.
Supporters say right to work would bring more jobs to Michigan and give workers freedom, but opponents say it’s intended to weaken unions and drive down wages and benefits in the state.
Lansing authorities were bracing for an onslaught of protesters today. They increased police presence and planned road closings and parking restrictions around the Capitol.
Obama was greeted by Snyder and Democratic members of Michigan’s congressional delegation before heading to the engine plant Monday afternoon.
Meanwhile, Michigan House Democratic leaders gathered at the Capitol and called for more debate on the committee level before final passage. Democrats acknowledged there was little they could do to stop the fast-moving legislation in the waning days of the session but vowed to vote down other legislation as a form of protest, including one that helps to finance a downtown Detroit project featuring a new home for the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings.
“For them to try to rush (the Detroit project) through in lame-duck (session) is every bit as unacceptable as any other policy initiatives they are trying to rush through,” said state Rep. Tim Greimel, an Auburn Hills Democrat who is the incoming minority leader. “We’ve got to take a stand and say, ‘Look, we need to have a deliberative process.’”
Ari Adler, spokesman for Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger, issued statements dismissing the comments of both congressional and state Democratic leaders. He chided those in Washington for “trying to tell Republicans in Michigan to slow down and not do our job in Lansing while they fail to resolve the nation’s fiscal cliff crisis or even approve a budget.” Adler also said right-to-work policies have “been debated for decades, and we’ve been talking about it in the state House for the past two years.”
“I find it laughable that House Democrats are suggesting the process is the problem and not the policy,” he said. “We will have two suns rise over the state Capitol before House Democrats would consider supporting labor reforms that put the rights of Michigan workers ahead of the demands of powerful union bosses.”