Macomb Township's representatives in the state House broke ranks with their Republican brethren Thursday, voting against right-to-work legislation now on the fast track to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk.
Within hours of Snyder’s Dec. 6 call for a "workplace fairness and equity" bill, also called right to work, legislators began voting on House Bill 4054, Senate Bill 116 and House Bill 4003.
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The bills now move to the chamber opposite from where they originated and could be passed as soon as Tuesday, at which point Snyder said he would sign the chosen version into law, making Michigan the 24th right-to-work state.
The approved bill is slated to prohibit unions from collecting fees from nonunion workers, which opponents say would weaken organized labor’s ability to bargain for good wages while supporters say it would boost jobs.
Although this legislation would cover both the public and private sectors, there would be an exception for police and firefighters.
While Bill 4054 passed the House by a 58-52 vote Thursday, six Republicans opposed the measure, including Macomb Township Reps. Anthony Forlini (R-District 24) and Ken Goike (R-District 33). All House Democrats also cast “no” votes.
“With my being in the private sector for 38 years and dealing with the unions, I know the issue firsthand,” said Goike, who was elected to his second term in November. “I have a big responsibility to the people in my district and what they were relaying to us via email, telephone and in person. Teachers, truck drivers, UAW members, construction workers and the whole realm of constituents in the 33rd District were very clear on their opinions and the majority are against it.”
Despite being an opponent of Proposal 2, a collective bargaining measure that failed in November, Goike said he couldn’t support right-to-work legislation.
“I wasn’t favorable to the idea that some employees will pay for collective bargaining rights while others won’t yet would still get the same benefit,” Goike said. “(District 33) is a predominantly blue collar district. They are in the working trades, but have conservative values like I do. I was sent to Lansing to represent them. I’ve heard from my constituents and that’s the reason I voted the way I did.”
As for the timetable in which this measure is expected to move through the legislative process, Goike said he is not altogether surprised by the speed, as this is an issue that has been brewing for decades.
“The whole issue of it is pretty cut and dry,” he said. “You’re either for it or against it. It’s been around for so many years it’s going to be contentious no matter what. Everybody’s minds were made up all along when they were elected into office.”
House representatives will likely vote on this legislation again Tuesday. Regardless of what changes made be made in that time, Goike said he plans to vote “no” again.
“It’s pretty black and white, this issue,” he added.
Rep. Forlini, who voted against the legislation proposed in the House, said he does not believe right-to-work is an issue that should be decided by legislators.
“It’s a divisive issue,” he said. “I’m not saying right-to-work doesn’t have merit, but I feel it would have been better as a ballot initiative. It shouldn’t be a Republican or Democratic issue just because one party or the other is in leadership. There are so many things to do in Lansing, it’s unfortunate this is pushing others aside.”
In the State Senate, Macomb Township's Sen. Jack Brandenburg voted with 22 of his fellow Republicans to pass Senate Bill 116 and House Bill 4003.