State of the State brings back RTW foes

LANSING, Mich. (WOOD) — It is as traditional as the governor's annual report to the legislature: Wednesday's State of the State Speech brought protesters to the steps of the Capitol.

Members of various Native American tribes used the event to highlight Idle No More, the North American protest over indigenous rights and treaty violations. Nearby were opponents of the controversial energy exploration method known as fracking.

But many of the loudest voices belong to still upset over right-to-work.

"Hey hey, ho ho, right-to-work has got to go," protesters chanted on the front lawn of the Capitol.

The protesters hung a banner that said, "You can't trust Snyder."

Organized labor has strong roots in Michigan. The UAW was born here. Generations grew up in local union halls.

It wasn't long a go that any suggestion that right-to-work -- the ability of a person to work in a union shop and have a choice over whether or not to pay union dues -- would be law in Michigan would have been quickly dismissed.

Dec. 11, 2012 changed all that as Republicans in the lame duck session approved right-to-work and, despite saying it wasn't on his agenda early on, Gov. Rick Snyder signed it into law.

"We have no faith that he can actually... we can actually depend on anything he says," said Rev. John H. Burns II, pastor of St. Matthew A & E Church in Lansing.

Passion over the issue remains. For at least one protester, the anger crosses party lines.

"I am a nurse at Sparrow Hospital and a Republican union member," said  Mike Severino. "I wanted to let people know that this isn't just a Democrat thing. It's something that Republicans and Independents should all be concerned about."

While detractors say right-to-work allows workers who chose not to pay dues to benefit from union negations, supporters argue the legislation allows workers a choice and that unions can still sell the benefits of the union and dues that support that effort to members.

That's a notion most protesters don't buy into.

"I think if you have a stroke you can use it as a selling point to bring a family together, but I don't think a stroke is what you really want to have," said Brian Grochowski, a member of the union representing State Scientists and Engineers.

So where do right-to-work foes go from here? Many say they'll push for change at the voting booth.

Considering the failure of Proposal 2, the ballot issue that would have made collective bargaining part of the state constitution, it will be interesting to see what happens.

State police Lt. Chris Kelenske said police prepared for 300 to 2,000 protesters and didn't need to take extraordinary security measures.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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Michigan (change)

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.
Offices & Officials

Governor: Rick Snyder
Lieutenant Governor: Brian Calley
Attorney General: Bill Schuette
Secretary of State: Ruth Johnson

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