Michigan turns into mob scene in right-to-work fight
LANSING, Mich. — Tempers flared Tuesday morning here at the state Capitol as police — some on horses — moved into to break up a mob scene as the Republican-controlled House approved a contentious right-to-work bill.
Thousands of union members and friends of organized labor gathered to show their opposition, at times heated, to the legislation that prohibits unions from forcing unionized employees to pay union dues or join labor groups.
Gov. Rick Snyder had not yet signed the bill into law, but did so later in the day. His signature made Michigan the 24th right-to-work state.
By mid-morning, the Capitol was a scene of chaos as union members and organizers from the conservative, pro-right-to-work Americans for Prosperity got into a shouting match. Wisconsin Reporter’s Ryan Ekvall, at the scene, said right-to-work opponents grew increasingly agitated over AFP’s signs.
“There was some pushing and shoving. At one point, I was in the middle of the crowd; it was like a mosh pit where you couldn’t control yourself. You were being moved with the crowd,” Ekvall said.
Ekvall saw two lines of police officers forming, “marching like military,” with four officers mounted on horses. They dispersed the crowd and restored peace to the section of the grounds. Before doing so, union members pulled up the tent stakes, and the tent collapsed with some AFP members inside, according to witnesses at the scene.
“One union member told me that the tent wasn’t union-built, and that’s why it fell down,” Ekvall said.
“They wanted to provoke us,” the man said of AFP and the organization’s anti-union signs.
Soon after the measure passed, the demonstration moved to the governor’s office across the street, at the George W. Romney Building. A crowd chanted, “Veto the bill!” as some protesters pounded on the Plexiglas window.
On Tuesday evening, long after Snyder signed the bill, remaining demonstrators chanted, “Gov. Snyder you’re a jerk, we don’t want no right to work.”
Wisconsin union supporters were represented, with activists from Wisconsin Jobs Now, Wisconsin AFL-CIO, and a “Blue Fist” or two making their presence known.
Michigan union members were among tens of thousands of protesters who descended on Wisconsin’s state Capitol in late winter 2011 to protest Act 10, a Republican-led bill — now law — that curbs collective bargaining for most unionized public employers.
Contact Ekvall at [email protected]