March 13 2013 12:00 AM

Protesters crowd the Capitol rotunda to oppose Right to Work

Sam Inglot/City Pulse

Wednesday, Dec. 5 — Could we be witnessing the death of labor unions in Michigan?

Today around 3:30 p.m., hundreds of protesters flocked to the innards of the Capitol Building to protest Right to Work legislation being considered in the state Senate.

Chants could be heard throughout the entire building as people stomped on the floor and clapped their hands. A few were: “What’s disgusting? Union busting!” and “We broke. We hungry. We can’t pay the rent. We must be part of the 99 percent!”

Right to Work laws ban mandatory dues payments in union workplaces — more than 20 states have them. Right to Work opponents like UAW President Bob King, who was among the protesters today, say the legislation would hurt unions and lower wages.

“Right to Work is wrong for Michigan,” King said. “Right to Work will lower wages, lower benefits, lower time off — every state that’s got Right to Work has got lower standards of living. We want a strong Michigan, we want everybody to move forward in Michigan. We don’t just want the 1 percent to move forward, we want the 99 percent.”

Stan Shuck, vice president of UAW Local 2256 in Lansing, said passing Right to Work would be like “cutting the throats” of the public sector and the middle class.

“It would destroy safety standards and working conditions, not to mention wages and benefits across the board,” he said.

A heavy police presence was among protesters at the Capitol, but the Senate session was not interrupted. The Senate adjourned a little after 6 p.m. without a vote on the legislation.

People came from all over the state to protest. Terry Kimland came from Detroit with an SEIU chapter. He said Right to Work would gut unions and take away the power of the working person to stand up to their employers when they’re being treated unfairly.

“It will take away our voice as far as jobs go,” he said. “It will take away our self-respect because the powers that be will have the authority to do or say anything they want to us and that’s not part of what we want in the state of Michigan.”

It’s uncertain when the Senate will vote on the legislation, but King said, either way, union organizers plan on being at the Capitol again Thursday in droves.

“There are 50 different rumors everyday. We just know this is wrong for Michigan — we’re here to express that,” he said. “We’ll be back here tomorrow. We’ll fight for the next two years. If they pass Right to Work, they’re declaring they want a divided Michigan.”