Silent protests after Mich. right-to-work action

Silent protests are taking place a day after Republicans converted Michigan from a seemingly impregnable fortress of organized labor into a right-to-work state.

Protesters covered their mouths with tape Wednesday with the words "$1,500 less" written on it in reference to wage cuts they expect.

The protest was in contrast to the day before. The state House swiftly approved two bills reducing unions' strength Tuesday, one dealing with private-sector workers and the other with public employees, as thousands of furious protesters at the state Capitol roared in vain.

Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed the measures into law within hours, calling them "pro-worker and pro-Michigan."

The Mackinaw Center for Public Policy applauds the legislation calling it a "victory for workers."

"I applaud Gov. Snyder and the brave lawmakers who chose to put workers and job creators above special interests," Labor Policy Director F. Vincent Vernuccio said. "Today we have a state that is freer than it was yesterday."

The new laws will take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns.

"Right-to-work does not affect collective bargaining in any way except to take away the unions' ability to fire workers for not paying them," Vernuccio added. "It makes unions accountable to their members. Unions will no longer be able to bolster their political power by taking money from people who don't support their agenda."

The legislation, which will now be known as Public Acts 348 and 349, come less than a year after Indiana became a right-to-work state. Since that time, the Mackinaw Center reports, the state has added 43,300 jobs while Michigan has lost 7,300. Indiana's manufacturing sector added 13,900 jobs as well.

The Center adds that employment in right-to-work states grew 71 percent between 1980 and 2011, while states without the legislation grew just 32 percent.

"This is a signal to job creators and entrepreneurs that Michigan is open for business," Vernuccio said. "This will mean more and better jobs for our state."

Vernuccio adds that right-to-work does not ban collective bargaining or the unions' powers.

"Unions can - and do - still exist in right-to-work states," Vernuccio said. "But people also have a right to say 'no thank you' when a union demands money for providing an unwanted service."

Representative Greg MacMaster agrees, saying unions and their collective bargaining continue to be constitutionally protected.

"While the people who were union members before are still members now, in the future, those workers will have the freedom to weigh the value of those benefits against the costs, and make their own choice to continue their participation," MacMaster said.

"My hope is that unions will use this change as an opportunity to become stronger and an even more important partner to putting Michigan back on top after years of recession and losses that had us top in unemployment rates, housing market decline and other dismal rankings," MacMaster said.

Michigan Democratic Party chair Mark Brewer disagrees with the legislation, saying that voters will not forget about this legislation in the 2014 election.

"If Governor Snyder thinks that Michigan citizens will ho home and forget about what happened in Lansing today, he is sorely mistaken," Brewer said. "The people of Michigan will not forget how he abandoned working families and threw in with corporate CEO's like Dick DeVos and the Koch brothers. They will not forget how the Republican Legislature rushed through these bills with no committee hearings and little debate during the lame duck session. They will not forget how Snyder hid from the public and signed the bills before the ink was dry. Snyder has set the tone for the next two years, and this fight is not over. 2014 starts today."

The Heartland Institute, a free-market think tank based out of Chicago applauds the Republican legislature and Governor for the right to work legislation.

"With Michigan following Indiana, which became the first industrial Midwest state to establish right-to-work last year, we now have a virtual circle of competition between states to establish the best conditions for job-creating businesses," S.T. Karnick, Director of Research said. "This will benefit workers, consumers, taxpayers and the state governments - the latter gaining higher revenues from taxes on growing state economies. It truly is a win-win-win-win situation."