LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — House Democrats still reeling after the
swift approval of the right-to-work law are pointing to former Republican gubernatorial candidate
Dick DeVos as a driving force behind it.
They say the law will lead to even deeper divides between the parties.
"I'm not criticizing Mr. DeVos for wanting to influence public policy, but let's call this for what it really is: This is Mr. DeVos and his wife Betsy's dream to bring right-to-work to Michigan," said
Rep. Brandon Dillon, D-Grand Rapids. "They've succeeded. Congratulations to them."
Democrats Wednesday criticized Republicans for rushing the legislation without public hearings and with little debate.
"It certainly has poisoned the well a lot here in Lansing for any bipartisan compromise going forward," said
Rep. Sean McCann, D-Kalamazoo.
Added Dillon: "You take an issue that is probably the biggest piece of legislation we've considered in the last 50 years in this state and you rush it through in a lame-duck Legislature when you've got police officers guarding the door, and you've got Republican staffers in the gallery taking up seats."
Gov. Rick Snyder had voiced opposition in the past to right-to-work, but said that changed after Democrats pushed for Proposal 2 -- a pro-union Constitutional amendment that failed in November.
"I think you know when the governor's talking now, and his lips are moving, it's very difficult to know if anything he says is what he believes," Dillon said.
"He's shown when push comes to shove he's going to take orders from people like Dick Devos and other CEOs who want this to go through," Dillon added.
The right-to-work vote among West Michigan's nearly two-dozen House members followed party lines. However,
six of the 64 House Republicans joined Democrats to vote no -- five of those from Southeast Michigan, a union stronghold.
"I think that the Republican party is being driven by the extreme right wing, and they were able to strong- arm people," said state
Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright, D-Muskegon.
This fight pits big business against unions. The right-to-work law is seen as a way to weaken both unions and the Democratic Party.
The law means workers will no longer have to join unions, while still getting the benefits of being in a union.
Republicans say it is best for the state and will lead to more jobs.
Two West Michigan Republicans, David Agema, of Grandville, and Thomas Hooker, of Byron Center, told 24 Hour News 8 that nobody connected to DeVos contacted them about the law. Hooker was among the original co-sponsors of the law when it was first proposed in March 2011.
"The DeVoses never talked to me," Hooker said. "I've never received a nickel from them towards my campaigns at all. They certainly didn't influence my decision."
"As far as demonizing them against us, they are the people that create the jobs," Agema said of DeVos and other business owners. "Now, you can demonize them all you want to, but entrepreneurs that make the jobs are the ones who make the jobs for the middle class and the poor people if you will."
DeVos told 24 Hour News 8 he supported the law.
a private citizen and a business person, and my real agenda has, I think, been consistent all the way through," he said. "And that is, what do I think is in the best interest of Michigan, of families and workers and the citizens of Michigan?"
DeVos said he believes the law will lead to job growth in Michigan.
"This was about doing what's right for Michigan, and I do believe that freedom to work is going to send a signal to the nation, if not the world, that Michigan is a great place to locate a business, that we have great workers here."
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Michigan is governed as a republic, with three branches of government: executive, legislative and judicial. The state also allows direct participation of the electorate by initiative, referendum, recall, and ratification.