LANSING, Mich. (AP) — In an audacious flex of political muscle, Republicans in a single day reached the brink of a goal that for years has seemed an all-but-impossible dream: making the labor bastion of Michigan a right-to-work state.
The GOP majority used its superior numbers and backing from Gov. Rick Snyder to ramrod legislation through the House and Senate on Thursday, brushing aside denunciations and walkouts by helpless Democrats and cries of outrage from union activists who swarmed the state Capitol hallways and grounds. At one point, police used pepper spray to subdue demonstrators who tried to rush the Senate chamber.
"Shame! Shame on you!" protesters chorused from the gallery as the Senate voted. Earlier, security guards removed a man who yelled, "Heil Hitler! Heil Hitler! That's what you people are." Another shouted, "We will remember in November."
The right-to-work laws would prohibit what are known as "closed shops," in which workers are required to join a union or pay fees that are equivalent to union dues as a condition of employment.
Michigan could become the 24th state with a right-to-work law next week. Rules require a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other's bills; lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday and Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law.