SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Nation/World

December 8, 2012

Mich. legislators defy unions, OK right-to-work

(Continued)

Thursday morning, however, the governor called a news conference with House Speaker Jase Bolger and Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville to announce that not only would right-to-work legislation be considered, it would be placed on a fast track. By sundown, bills had been introduced and passed without committee votes or public hearings.

Republicans insisted the measures had been given adequate consideration, saying the topic was familiar — particularly after the protracted campaign that preceded voters’ overwhelming November rejection of a proposed constitutional amendment that would have barred right-to-work laws.

“We’ve come to the point where this issue is on the table,” Snyder told The Associated Press in an interview. “It’s time to step up and make a decision and not let this fester.”

He and legislative leaders denied opponents’ contentions that the bills were designed to weaken unions by depriving them of funds needed to bargain effectively or were retaliation for the ballot initiative, which organized labor spearheaded.

They said a “freedom to work” law would make unions more responsive to members’ needs and give employees freedom to decide whether to accept union representation.

“This does not change collective bargaining and this is not anti-union,” Bolger said. “It is pro-worker.”

Senate Majority Floor Leader Arlan Meekhof said a number of factors influenced the decision to push ahead, including Snyder’s endorsement and the ballot initiative, which put right-to-work in the spotlight. Primarily, however, Republicans recognized they had enough votes to capture a long-sought prize, he said.

“I wouldn’t say there was a sense of urgency, but a sense of opportunity,” Meekhof said.

Democrats contended Republicans, who lost five House seats in the November election, wanted to act before a new legislature takes office next month. In passionate floor speeches, they accused the majority of ignoring the message from voters and bowing to right-wing interest groups.

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