'Right to Work' Protests Greet Legislators at the Capitol

By: Lindsay Veremis
By: Lindsay Veremis

Protesters were back at the Capitol Wednesday, greeting lawmakers with what they called a "walk of shame."

About 200 people lined the Capitol steps and entrances, booing right-to-work supporters and cheering those who oppose it, as legislators returned to session.

The scene is becoming familiar in Lansing, bullhorns, angry crowds and workers clutching signs of discontent.

"I come from a family of four and they're trying to take the future of my kids and I'm not going to let it happen," Armando Ramos, with Local 1098 out of Saginaw said. "I'm going to stand up for my rights."

Some held pictures of lawmakers, with shame scrawled in red above the faces. Others stomped on them, grinding their feet on photos in frustration.

Right-to-work may be law, but it is not one they accept.

"I think it's extremely controversial and I think it was rushed through in this lame duck session and it was done behind closed doors and in a very undemocratic way," Kelly Brunk with the Michigan Nurses Association said.

"If somebody is choosing not to join or support their union, the question should be why not," Representative Mike Shirkey, R-Jackson said. "It shouldn't be blaming somebody else or blaming a law that basically provides and increases freedom for the individual."

Shirkey has been one of right-to-work's most vocal backers. He says because of the law, his phone has already ringing with companies inquiring about invest long term in Michigan.

"Calls being placed to the governor's office, calls being placed to the MEDC (Michigan Economic Development Corporation)," Shirkey said.

Lawmakers know divisiveness will be a new reality at the Capitol, but Shirkey is hoping the debate will ease as right-to-work eases in.

The measure takes effect in April, but only as union contracts expire. It will not override existing collective bargaining agreements.

Union members say the fight's not over.

"We're exploring all our options and we're not going away," Brunk said.

Protestors also delivered cookies to lawmakers who opposed right-to-work. Supporters received bags of crumbs.

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