Pro-union protesters in Lansing today were met by Michigan State Police in riot gear and wielding pepper spray. Crowds began rallying in the Michigan’s capitol city last week after Gov. Rick Snyder and the state legislature began moving aggressively on a law that will labor leaders say will restrict their ability to organize. The protests grew to more than 12,000 people in Lansing this afternoon as the bill began to move.
The Michigan House of Representatives today passed two bills expected to dramatically diminish union power in the home of American manufacturing. The House voted 58-51 in favor of a so-called “right-to-work” law for most of the state’s public workers, and 58-52 on a similar bill for private sector workers. The laws prevent unions from automatically drawing union fees from the paychecks of workers at union shops. In the 24 other states with similar laws, unions have struggled to maintain significant power.
Snyder is expected to sign the bills as early as this evening.
As the first right-to-work bill was being passed inside the Capitol by the state House, protesters outside jeered at the news. They began to scream and shout in opposition, prompting a large contingent of State Police troopers to form a line in front of mounted police and begin pushing the crowd back from the Capitol steps, drawing even louder complaints from protesters.
“Shame on You!” chants could be heard across the Capitol lawn.
More State Police began arriving, with about 10 mounted officers and more than 40 other state troopers standing two deep near the Capitol steps. Some of the officers on the edges of the crowd carried tear gas.
According to reports, protestes pushed down a tent near the Capitol used by the group Americans for Prosperity, a Koch Brother funded group connected to the tea party that is strongly anti-union and has supported the legislation in several states.
At least one protester was gassed and three arrested by police today. Videos show cops on horses circling demonstrators.
Michigan lawmakers made police and fire fighters exempt from the union restrictions in the new law.