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Wednesday, March 13,2013

Big day coming

City braces for Right to Work protests Tuesday

by Andy Balaskovitz
Right-to-Work legislation approved by the House and Senate led to protests on Thursday. More expected on Tuesday. Sam Inglot/City Pulse
Monday, Dec. 10 — The city of Lansing is preparing for a big day of protests Tuesday against pending “Right to Work” legislation, announcing on Sunday that several downtown streets will be blocked off to hold anticipated crowds.

Beginning at 6 a.m. Tuesday, the city will close the streets and parking around the Capitol Building on Capitol Avenue and Ottawa, Walnut and Allegan streets.

Organized labor supporters from across the state are planning on a major demonstration all day Tuesday. An email from Michigan Democratic Party Chairman Mark Brewer says a meeting will be held at the Lansing Center at 8 a.m. with a march to the Capitol following at 9 a.m.. Nearly 2,500 people have joined a Facebook event for the protest as of Sunday night at 10.

Tuesday’s activity is being organized by a group called We Are Michigan, which describes itself as “a coalition of faith, community, labor and progressive groups united by a common commitment to strengthening Michigan’s middle class.”

Union organizations are offering training to those interested in participating Tuesday. The UAW in Dearbon on Saturday was scheduled to train supporters in civil disobedience. The Michigan Education Association is training “marshalls” tonight to help keep protesters organized on Tuesday.

It’s been a whirlwind of heated politics since Thursday morning, when Gov. Rick Snyder sat alongside fellow Republicans Speaker of the House Jase Bolger and Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville and announced his support for Right to Work legislation. Protests among organized labor supporters spread like wildfire as the day progressed.

Within eight hours on Thursday, similar bills had passed the House and Senate that are on track to make Michigan the nation’s 24th Right to Work state, which makes paying union dues optional. Snyder has said he intends to sign the legislation when it’s on his desk Tuesday.

It’s easily the biggest political story since the first few months of Snyder’s administration. Pundits are calling Snyder’s support for Right to Work — an undeniably divisive political issue — an exercise in hypocrisy (http://www.mlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2012/12/snyder_right_to_work_flip_flop.html#incart_river_default) after making several statements leading up to Thursday that essentially said he wants to avoid the issue.

It’s uncertain what kind of political fallout the Legislature’s and Snyder’s actions will have. A new poll released by EPIC/MRA shows that merely 6 percent of those surveyed said passing a Right to Work law during the lame duck session was a “top priority.” Results also show that voters are less likely to support legislators and Snyder in 2014 if they pass a Right to Work law.

Tuesday is shaping up to be an even larger demonstration than those from March 2011, which were largely focused on the new emergency financial manager law (which was repealed by referendum last month), scaling back pension tax exemptions, business tax cuts and cuts to education funding. Protests at that time were compared in size to the tent cities of the early 1990s when then-Gov. John Engler sought cuts to general assistance.
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