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Right To Work Laws

Unions in the age of right to work laws. We’ll look at labor and organized labor nationwide after the big fight in Michigan.

Protesters gather for a rally outside the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation passed last week. Michigan could become the 24th state with a right-to-work law next week. Rules required a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other's bills; lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday and Gov. Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law. (AP)

Protesters gather for a rally outside the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation passed last week. Michigan could become the 24th state with a right-to-work law next week. Rules required a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other’s bills; lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday and Gov. Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law. (AP)

In the 1950’s, nearly 40 percent of American workers were covered by a union contract.  Oh, how things have changed.  Today, it’s maybe 12 percent.  Maybe seven percent actual union members.

And yesterday, in the deepest of deep union country – Michigan, UAW country, America’s industrial heartland – a stunning, direct blow to organized labor.  “Right to work” legislation rushed through and signed into law. In Michigan.  To shouts of shame, and conservative celebration.

This hour, On Point:  Labor and organized labor in America, after the big punch in Michigan.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Chad Livengood, capitol reporter for the Detroit News.

Richard Freeman, professor of economics at Harvard University. He also directs the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Katie Oppenheim, chair of the University of Michigan Professional Nurse Council, a union which represents nearly 5,000 nurses .

Dallas Woodhouse, state director of the North Carolina chapter of Americans for Prosperity, which advocates for the passage of right to work laws.

From Tom’s Reading List

Detroit News “Pepper spray, heated exchanges and loud chanting over controversial right-to-work legislation came into focus Tuesday with eyes on Michigan’s historic showdown between Republican lawmakers and organized labor. Michigan State Police confirmed Tuesday afternoon that a trooper used pepper spray to subdue one of the thousands of protesters outside the Capitol.”

New York Times “Before the vote, Democrats in the state’s House of Representatives, where Republicans hold a 64-to-46 majority over Democrats, were desperately trying to offer amendments to the measures in order to derail them. Among the suggestions: Send the question to a public vote. So far, all amendments had been rejected.”

USA Today “President Obama blasted Michigan Republicans on Monday for seeking “so-called right-to-work laws,” saying they represent anti-union politics.  “What they’re talking about is giving you the right to make less money,” Obama told union members at an engine plant near Detroit.”

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