The Michigan House has voted to approve right-to-work legislation for private-sector workers.
House members voted 58-52 to approve the measure Thursday afternoon as hundreds of union activists protested loudly in the state Capitol halls in Lansing. Only Republicans voted in favor.
The Senate is debating similar legislation. Minority Democrats are offering a series of amendments, all of which majority Republicans have voted down.
Gov. Rick Snyder and legislative leaders announced earlier Thursday they would try to rush the legislation to enactment in the session's final days.
The so-called right-to-work measures generally prohibit requiring unions from collecting fees from non-union employees.
State Representative Greg MacMaster, R-Kewadin, says this is a step forward for the State.
"This is a huge step forward in Michigan that allows unions to continue their important mission while giving workers the freedom to choose if they participate," MacMaster said. "Our country is based on the ideal of freedom and liberty for all, and this legislation provides another layer of worker choice by not forcing people to join a union as a condition of employment."
About 17 percent of Michigan's workforce is unionized.
"Unions will still be able to operate and serve their memberships, but all workers will have the choice of supporting the organization and its goals. That is as American as we can be -- having the freedom to choose how we spend our money and the causes we are behind.
"Along with the individual freedom, this legislation also helps make Michigan more competitive so our state can attract new jobs and economic development, something people living in every region have clearly supported."
Michigan Democratic Party Chair Mark Brewer has shown his disappointment for the House's vote, saying:
"Snyder is shown he cannot be trusted since up to two days ago he said this legislation was 'not on his agenda.' Bolger is up to his old tricks of subverting democracy in Michigan by pushing this legislation through during a lame duck session, with no public hearings and with no chance for the voters to have their say."
State Representative Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, made the following statement:
"This reform will be historic for Michigan, as we become the 24th state in the country to allow residents to choose whether they want to join a union or not. This freedom is a pro-worker measure because people will be able to make their decision without jeopardizing their ability to make a living."
President Obama has voiced his opposition to the Michigan right-to-work legislation. White House spokesman Matt Lehrich tells the Associated Press that Obama believes the economy "is stronger when workers get good wages and good benefits, and he opposes attempts to roll back their rights."
Representative Ray Franz, R-Onekama, released the following statement:
"This is a historic day in our state as workers will have the right to choose whether they want to be in a union or not. Workers should be in control of their earnings and what they want to spend on them. By approving this legislation today, residents will have that freedom."