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LABOR News

December 6, 2012
Michigan's Governor and Chamber of Commerce Jump on the Right-to-Work Bandwagon

Battle lines have been drawn in Michigan over possible right-to-work legislation pitting organized labor and Democrats against Republicans and other conservative groups. Despite past neutrality on the issue of right-to-work the Michigan Chamber of Commerce has announced support of such legislation and Governor Rick Snyder (R) has done an abrupt about-face saying right-to-work is now on the table.

On Monday Rich Studley, president and CEO of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, announced the organization’s new stance saying “It is clear that now is the time for bold and decisive leadership to pass comprehensive freedom to work legislation that applies to both the public and private sectors.”

The following day, after months of stating right-to-work was not on his agenda, Governor Snyder left a closed-door meeting with Republican leaders saying, “There's been enough discussion now that it (right-to-work) has been highlighted enough, it's an important issue, so we are going to talk about it. There will be decisions made in the appropriate time-frame."

On Election Day Michigan voters rejected the pro-labor ballot initiative, Proposition 2, which would have enshrined collective bargaining rights in the state constitution and barred any future right-to-work laws. The rebuff by voters has energized Michigan Republicans, who hold the majority in both House and Senate, to push right-to-work legislation through during the lame duck session.

This is not the first time that unions and their supporters have done battle with the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. Despite the Chamber’s prior “neutrality” on right-to-work, the organization was the primary opposition to Proposition 2 in November election. The Detroit and Grand Rapids chambers of commerce fell in with the state chamber in opposing Proposition 2; it remains to be seen if will they will follow suit and support a right-to-work bill.