10,000 Protesters Descend on Capitol Tuesday to Fight Michigan Right-to-Work Legislation

The bills were signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday.

LANSING - People came from as close as down the street and as far as Chicago and Wisconsin, joining thousands of union members in a protest against right-to-work legislation Tuesday in Lansing.

Looking for more coverage? Check out our Right-to-Work page or sign up for the Macomb Patch e-newsletter.

Despite the roar of the crowds lining the lawn of the Capitol building and surrounding streets, two pieces of legislation passed by the Senate last week made their way through the state House of Representatives and were signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder Tuesday afternoon.

10,000 on the Capitol lawn

Michigan State Police estimated that protesters at the Capitol numbered around 10,000 on Tuesday. Most were union members and supporters, while a small contingent of Tea Party and Americans for Prosperity members—both of which support right-to-work legislation—were present as well.

Teamsters, the American Federation of Teachers, the Michigan Education Foundation, UAW and a number of smaller unions—including pipeworkers, boilermakers and plumbers—were present.

“This is not about moving Michigan forward,” said Mara Wirtz, president of the L’Anse Creuse Education Association. “It is not about helping the economy, clearly the data and statistics are out there regarding right-to-work and there is nothing in the statistics that say this is going to move Michigan forward or help us economically and that is what (Snyder) ran on: bringing Michigan together, helping jobs and the economy. This does none of those three things.”

While UAW members arrived on large busses, many teachers came on their days off—or took a personal day—to join the protests, driving their own cars full of fellow educators donning red. Several said they feared for their jobs if their district knew they were at the protest.

"We're afraid to talk because we don't want to lose our jobs," said a teacher from Farmington.

Arrests, pepper spray, mounted police

The scene got out of hand a number of times as protesters clashed with right-to-work supporters, police, and legislators inside the Capitol.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Michigan State Police confirmed that three people were arrested and one was pepper sprayed—although several people claimed to have been sprayed. One of those people was former Congressman Mark Schauer.

“I immediately began to retreat and began to cover my eyes and my mouth,” Schauer told the Battle Creek Enquirer. “It was not good."

The biggest clash came around 11:30 a.m., when union members pushed down tents set up by Americans for Prosperity—while AFP members were inside. Mounted police were brought in to control the situation, as well as state police wielding batons.

After news of the house votes reached protesters, the rally moved to the Romney Building, where Gov. Snyder's office is. State officers formed a barrier around the building as protesters shouted to him, "Don't sign the bill!"

In a press conference Tuesday evening, Snyder announced that he signed the bills.

"I have signed these bills into law. ... We are moving forward on the topic of workplace fairness and equality," he said.

Corky December 12, 2012 at 11:46 AM
Forlini and Goike..Macomb republicans voted Against this bill! You will NOT get my vote in the future. Are you really Republicans in sheeps clothing? RTW is GOOD for Michigan. Freedom to join a Union or NOT to join a Union. 17% union in this state...you are NOT the majority any longer.
Keith Best December 12, 2012 at 01:45 PM
"Union thugs" in action. Did you see this in the news?--- http://youtu.be/u_F3oev06i0
Dennis December 12, 2012 at 02:33 PM
Freedom of choice... if the unions are a good deal for someone, they can still join and will continue to prosper. If unions are not desirable, then employees are not 'forced' into them to get a job. Shouldn't the employee be able to decide what's good/right for them?
Jean Marie December 12, 2012 at 07:31 PM
I totally disagree with you.


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