Wednesday, Jan. 9 — Around college towns, the phrase “walk of shame” is usually reserved for co-eds who walk home with smudged makeup and a broken heel after a long night of partying. But today, protesters wanted the first day of the new legislative session to be an embarrassing walk for state representatives who supported right to work last month.
Just after 8 this morning, roughly 150 protesters at the Capitol Building lined walkways and held posters of Republican state representatives who voted in favor of right-to-work legislation in the December lame duck session. The intent was to shame them as they walked into the Capitol.
Kim Dennison, 52, is an occupational health nurse at Sparrow Hospital. She said the legislators returning to work today need to know that right to work was passed in an “improper manner” by pushing it quickly through the lame duck session. She also chastised Gov. Rick Snyder for changing his position on the legislation.
Snyder has said he believed the legislation, which gives employees the option of paying union dues while affording them benefits negotiated under collective bargaining, was a “divisive” measure and wasn’t right for Michigan. That attitude quickly changed leading up to the lame duck session last month. He signed a right-to-work bill into law on Dec. 11.
“Right to work degrades the financial ability of unions to protect workers,” said Dennison, who is a member of the Michigan Nurses Association.
Protesters chanted some of the same verses that echoed through the Capitol in December when over 12,000 protesters flooded the Capitol grounds and packed the Rotunda: “What’s disgusting? Union busting!” and “Hey! Hey! Ho! Ho! Right to Work has got to go!”
Meanwhile, the state — through its Pure Michigan marketing campaign — took a full-page ad out in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal that called right to work a “once-in-a-lifetime transformation” for the state’s business environment. More on that here.
Jason Richert, 42 is a Teamsters union member from Novi. He said he was here to “stand up for middle class workers.”
“Organized labor built the middle class,” he said as he held a sign bearing the mug of Rep. Rick Outman, R-Six Lakes, with the word “Shame” written across it. “For them to push this through in lame duck is unacceptable. We’re going to be here until we make it right.”
The “Michigan Legislature Walk of Shame” event was organized by We Are Michigan, a “coalition of faith, community, labor and progressive groups united by a common commitment to strengthening Michigan’s middle class,” according to the group’s website.