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MSU community reacts to passage of right-to-work legislation

December 11, 2012
	<p>Police officiers guard the George W. Romney Building, 111 S. Capitol Ave. in Lansing, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. About a dozen protestors participated in a civil disobedience sit-in in the public area of the building. Justin Wan/The State News</p>

Police officiers guard the George W. Romney Building, 111 S. Capitol Ave. in Lansing, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. About a dozen protestors participated in a civil disobedience sit-in in the public area of the building. Justin Wan/The State News

Photo by Justin Wan | The State News

After speeding through the state legislature last week and getting the final vote of approval from the House of Representatives on Tuesday, both right-to-work bills were signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder that same day.

The House passed its bill with a vote of 58-51, and the Senate version by a vote of 58-52, shortly thereafter. Snyder signed the bills within hours.

“(I’m) confident this is in the best interest of Michiganders,” Snyder said. “I think it’s a great statement for workers in Michigan.”

Members of nine MSU unions now will face the consequences of the bill when it goes into effect.

Dan Clark, president of the MSU Graduate Employees Union and a graduate student, hoped Snyder would veto the bill.

Clark said some graduate students attend MSU because they know there is a union for them.

With the union, Clark said it helps graduate students make sure they have the necessary tools to do their jobs and live a decent life while they attend MSU.

“(This) lowers our ability to work with students and more students in class start overworking us,” Clark said. “(It’ll) mean poor quality of education for MSU students.”

The day drew large crowds to Lansing to contest the legislation.

Robert Merritt, public information officer for the Lansing Police Department, said up to 30,0000 people, including MSU students and faculty, swarmed the Capitol throughout the day.

Protesters from dozens of unions from all areas of the state, including Detroit and Flint, echoed chants such as “Shut it down” throughout the streets and even through the halls of the Capitol.

Most of the protesters also waved thousands of signs with slogans such as “Unions built this state”, “Kill the bill”, and “Right to Work is wrong for Michigan.”

Along with Senate and House Republicans, State Rep. Frank Foster, R-Petoskey, said he voted for the legislation to give Michigan workers the freedom to opt out of unions and mandatory dues.

“This landmark reform is freeing Michigan workers from forced union membership,” Foster said. “The Freedom to Work legislation encourages individual freedom while allowing unions to remain a strong partner in the workplace because people’s collective bargaining rights are in no way affected or being diminished.”

However, not all shared Foster’s sentiment. The bill was met with intense criticism from Democrats from both chambers.

During a visit to Detroit on Monday, President Barack Obama also voiced opposition to the bills.

Diane Petryk, an MSU instructor and a part of the Union of Nontenure Track Faculty at MSU, attended the protests at the Capitol and agreed with most of the protestors that passing the legislation was wrong.

“Our grandfathers died on the picket lines of Flint and Detroit to give us an 8-hour-day (and) safe working conditions,” Petryk said. “The very concept of a weekend is because of unions, and this is an attempt to destroy unions.”

Hundreds of police officers from the Michigan State Police and Lansing Police met the hordes of protesters outside the Capitol and the George W. Romney Building, which houses Gov. Rick Snyder’s office.

Gene Adamczyk, inspector with the Michigan State Police first district, said a couple of arrests occurred that involved the use of tear gas, but said for the most part, the crowds were not too disorderly.

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“Many people in the crowd are hard working Michiganians who are just trying to make a point,” Adamczyk said. “They were very loud, but they were orderly.”

Staff writer Isabella Shaya contributed to this report.

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