Huge Protests Over Right To Work

By: Brian Johnson Email
By: Brian Johnson Email

The protesters started early and they started loudly. Hundreds marching against right to work legislation.

"Low wages cannot sustain a family," said Gerald Lang, from the United Auto Workers 5960. "How can we keep lowering wages and expect any kind of prosperous anything for the United States of America, for Michigan especially?!"

Nurses', construction workers' and teachers' unions were among the largest represented by protesting workers.

"The biggest impact for me as a teacher is that it takes away my ability to negotiate things like I need for my students: materials, my classroom sizes, the opportunities for my students," said Jeff Bean, a teacher from Flint and member of the United Teachers of Flint.

"Everybody's going to be a patient someday. They are going to need a unionized nurse to take care of them," said Felicia Kieme, a registered nurse who, after being on call all night, arrived to protest around 6:30 a.m.

"I'm here because there is a huge question as to why this legislation is being pushed through so fast right now without listening to these people that are out here, that are fighting and obviously against it," said Lang.

There was a huge police presence downtown to keep things in check and keep people and property safe.

"They are trying to take our livelihood and run us down," said Miranda Stone a IBEW 665 worker who was protesting with her three little kids. "To protect my rights and my wages, to protect my working family and everybody around us." After her kids finished their half-day of school, she brought them down to protest with her.

"...It's very important. They [her kids] are part of the economy, they are part of our family, and it's all going to go with everybody so family, we go together---everything we do," said Stone.

The protests eventually made their way into the capitol rotunda. At one point, troopers would only allow people to leave the building and would no longer allow protesters inside the capitol. Then protesters headed to the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, which has been a vocal organization in support of right to work legislation.

Union workers say right to work will lower their wages, benefits and hurt the people they are employed to serve.

"I mean honestly, we say that you can belong to the union, and you have a choice not to belong [as well]," said Lee Graham, and Operating Engineer with the 324.

"I'm tired of hearing the rhetoric that people want right to work for workers. The workers aren't behind this. The groups that are pushing this don't represent working people. The unions do and we don't want this legislation. It's bad for working families, it's bad for Michigan," said Mark O'Keefe, a Detroit Federation of Teachers member.

Governor Snyder said good leaders listen to all parties involved and take a stand, and that is exactly what he says he has done. Right to work was not on his agenda, but it is now.

"Oh, I had extensive discussions with labor leaders going through this whole process. So we have had lots of dialogues and lots of discussion," said Gov. Rick Snyder. "At some point it's important to make a decision and based on all those discussions, I made a decision that I think is right for Michigan workers."

O'Keefe says Snyder is an active player in the legislation and not as passive as he appears to be.

"He's trying to act just like, he's doing what the legislature wants and what the people want. This legislature does not represent the will of the people, the polls are very clear, those who understand right to work are against it," said O'Keefe.

"You take away some of the strength of a collective bargaining agreement when you try to divide people through these right to work initiatives," said Diane Goddeeris, the Mayor of East Lansing and a registered nurse. She was protesting with her colleagues from Sparrow Hospital along with nurses from across the state. "We are all here trying to protect you, the patient, when you come in the hospital. This right to work legislation that they are trying to cram down, is not the right way to do this."


WILX.com is happy to provide a forum for commenting and discussion. Please respect and abide by the house rules:

Keep it clean, keep it civil, keep it truthful, stay on topic, be responsible, share your knowledge, and please suggest removal of comments that violate these standards.

See full commenting rules...
powered by Disqus
WILX 500 American Road Lansing, MI 48911 517-393-0110
Gray Television, Inc. - Copyright © 2002-2014 - Designed by Gray Digital Media - Powered by Clickability 182460882 - wilx.com/a?a=182460882