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Monday, December 17, 2012

Union Members Protest at Vote on Michigan Labor Law

Video of protesters inside Michigan's Capitol posted on YouTube by the A.C.L.U.

Thousands of union protesters from around the country descended on Michigan's Capitol building on Tuesday to voice opposition to legislation limiting the power of organized labor to raise dues and gain members.

But their angry shouts and chants, as my colleague Monica Davey reports, did not sway the Republican-led House of Representatives, which approved the so-called “right-to-work” legislation in a state that has long been at the center of American labor activity and history. The legislation bars both public and private sector workers from being required to pay fees as a condition of employment. The Senate passed it last week.

Gov. Rick Snyder signed the legislation later Tuesday.

Protesters began lining up before dawn as one bus after another brought union members from around the country to Lansing. At least two school districts in Michigan canceled classes because so many teachers said they planned to join the protests.

Video of protesters marching toward the Capitol in Lansing, Mich.

State police, some in riot gear, took up posts around the Capitol and limited the number of people allowed to enter to 2,000 because of concerns about overcrowding.

Inside, as the lawmakers debated the bill, hundreds of protesters lined the rotunda and shouted, “Shame on you!” and chanted, “No justice, no peace,” while thousands remained outside.

By early afternoon, The Detroit News reported that tensions between some protesters and the state police erupted, as members of a crowd tried to push into the George Romney state office building, where Governor Snyder's office is located. At least two people were arrested.

Although most of the protesters gathered without incident, a scuffle erupted on the front lawn of the Capitol between supporters and opponents of the legislation. Police said no one was hurt, but a tent that had been staked by the conservative group Americans for Prosperity was torn down by union protesters and captured on video.

Union protesters dismantling the opposition's tent outside the Capitol in a video posted on YouTube by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, a research institute that supports the legislation.

Both sides of the debate took to social media to make their case. The Teamsters posted video on YouTube of James P. Hoffa, their president, speaking to the crowd, and Governor Snyder explained why the the legislation was part of his effort to bolster the state's economy.

The Teamsters posted video of their president, James P. Hoffa, at the rally.
Gov. Rick Snyder explaining why he supports the legislation.