Democrats from Michigan's congressional delegation returned home Monday to meet with Gov. Rick Snyder (R) and pressure him not to make good on his promise to sign so-called right-to-work legislation into law.
That signature, they warned, would send Michigan spinning off into chaos.
"This is something that's going to set this state in a course for one of the longest, most bitter and angry battles that we have seen over the rights of working men and women to belong to unions and bargain collectively," Rep. John Dingell (D) the longest-serving current member of House, told reporters during a news conference. "It will upset almost everything that we're trying to do in terms of jobs, economic recovery."
Dingell was joined by other Democrats in the delegation, who like other Democrats across Michigan, said they scrambled to put together a response to Snyder's about-face on right-to-work legislation, which would allow people to work at union shops without paying dues. The first term governor had told the Republican majority in the state legislature to hold off on curbing unions in the home of the Big Three, before changing his mind last week and getting behind the effort.
Since then, right-to-work legislation written specifically to prevent pro-labor forces from challenging it at the ballot box the way they did in Ohio last year. The Democratic lawmakers called on Snyder to drop this clause and to delay the vote to allow more public hearings on it. Vocal protests have hit the state capital of Lansing since the right-to-work bill picked up steam.
Democrats met with Synder for about an hour on Monday morning and later told reporters the governor pledged to consider their concerns. But most observers expect Snyder will sign the bill into law, setting off a long legal and political fight with labor and Democrats. The AFL-CIO joined with Democrats saying the law will create chaos in Michigan.
"If Governor Snyder continues to push this radical Tea Party legislation on behalf of millionaires it will tear apart the fabric of this state and result in years of contentious fights instead of being able to focus together on creating jobs and rebuilding the middle class," the group said in a statement.
There's mounting pressure on Snyder to change his mind once again and allow the right-to-work law to be revisited via referendum. Republicans said they've used eccentricities in the state code to write the law in such a way that it won't qualify for a ballot question. In Washington, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called on Republicans in the state to back down.
"This is a blatant attempt by Michigan Republicans to assault the collective bargaining process and undermine the standard of living it has helped foster," he said in a statement. "This effort continues a dangerous trend set by Republican-led state legislatures across the nation, and it is another instance of the Tea Party needlessly sowing division and setting Republicans' economic agenda."
President Obama, who will be in Michigan Monday to give a speech on the fiscal cliff, has already condemned the right-to-work push.
Correction: This story has been corrected to show the legislation would allow people to work at union shops without paying dues.
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- Rick Snyder