Governor Rick Snyder signed right-to-work legislation into law Tuesday, making the birthplace of the UAW the nation's 24th right-to-work state.
At an evening press conference, he called it a great thing for Michigan, one that give workers a choice. Snyder says he hopes the new law will motivate unions to prove why workers should pay dues. He was asked why the signing came so quickly and so privately Tuesday.
"There were a number of people out protesting so I don't see the need to have a public signing ceremony to overemphasize that," Snyder explained. "This isn't about us versus them, this is about us trying to be Michiganders and trying to work together, cause again my first focus is always to say how can we work together to find common ground and solve the problems."
Despite protests more than 10,000 strong, state lawmakers passed bills that will allow workers the choice to join a union or opt out.
"Today means new jobs, better careers for workers, today means more freedom for workers to choose what organizations they want to belong to, today is a great day," House Speaker, R-Jase Bolger said.
House democrats called the passage of right-to-work deplorable.
"The Republicans who voted yes on this and the governor are goign to be held at the ballot box, ultimately in 2014," Incoming Minority Leader Rep. Tim Greimel, D-Auburn Hills.
Democrats offered a host of amendments in the House, hoping to change the two right-to-work bills, one for public workers, the other for private employees. All amendments were rejected.
"Today we are not only doing the wrong thing, we are doing it in the wrong way," Rep. Kate Segal, D-Battle Creek said.
Both sides gave lengthy opinions on the measures, many sharing personal stories of what unions mean to them. Still, right-to-work moved along, the bill covering public workers passed on a 58-51 vote, the bill covering private workers by a 58-52 margin. Enraged democrats shouted in the chambers, crying for the measures to be reconsidered.
"You have got to follow the rules of this chamber at least some time in this two year session," Segal demanded.
"The debate is just beginning on this matter," Greimel said. "If the governor thinks today's passage of this is going to end the debate he is dead wrong."
Democrats say Republicans squelched the voice of the people Tuesday. They are planning legal challenges to right-to-work and are also planning to refuse to cooperate with Republicans on other measures.
"You heard a robust debate on this floor, a passionate debate," Bolger said. "If the other side choses to walk away from working on things together that's their political decision."
Some of the outside protests could be heard in the House chambers, mainly whistles and clapping. Disruptions were minimal with gallery members for the most part quiet and respectful.