The Ticket

How did right-to-work law pass in union-friendly Michigan?

Liz Goodwin
The Ticket

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Protesters try to enter the House chamber in Lansing to protest "right to work." (Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

How did a right-to-work law pass in the union stronghold of Michigan?

Reuters credits a rookie Republican state legislator, who began his uphill battle nearly two years ago to pass the bill—signed into law on Wednesday by Gov. Rick Snyder—that is expected to dramatically curtail the power of unions in the state. The law makes it illegal to compel nonunion employees who benefit from a union contract to pay dues to the union.

State Rep. Patrick Colbeck, an engineer who took his seat in the Statehouse in early 2011, quickly attracted big-name Republican donors like the billionaire Koch brothers to his cause. Eventually, Colbeck persuaded some of his more union-friendly Republican colleagues to vote for the legislation. Snyder, who ran as a moderate Republican in 2010, said he would sign the bill if it passed, even though he didn't personally join the right-to-work campaign.

The law easily passed the Republican-controlled legislature earlier this week, as an estimated 10,000 people surrounded the Capitol in protest.

Right-to-work supporters also say the unions shot themselves in the foot when they tried to amend the constitution by ballot initiative in November to say the legislature cannot limit collective bargaining rights. The initiative failed and gave right-to-work supporters the impression that Michigan would be ready for the law, despite its deep union roots. The state is now the 24th in the union to have a right-to-work law on its books.

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