Teachers ditch school kids to protest vote on right-to-work
Published December 11, 2012
Two Michigan school districts closed Tuesday after hundreds of teachers called out, likely so they could participate in union protests tied to the expected passage of "right-to-work" legislation this week in the state capital.
Demonstrators have already started to march down the streets, as lawmakers return to put the final touches on legislation that would bar unions from demanding dues from workers. The move would make Michigan the 24th "right-to-work" state and strike a blow to organized labor in the heart of the U.S. auto industry.
Local unions spent the weekend preparing for massive protests on Tuesday, in a last-ditch push to pressure lawmakers.
FoxNews.com confirmed that the Warren school district had to close Tuesday after so many teachers called out absent; WDIV in Detroit reported that the Taylor school district had to do the same. A statement from the Warren system said that by 8 a.m. local time, 750 staff members had called out.
"Our decision to close school was based solely on student safety given the number of staff who called in absent today," the school district said in a statement.
Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, in an interview with Fox News, said it was "unfortunate" that teachers called out.
"Too often the educational system's all about the adults," he said. "To see schools shutting down because of an issue like this is not appropriate in my view."
Snyder, a Republican who is expected to sign the "right-to-work" legislation, defended his position.
"This is about giving workers the freedom to choose whether their resources go to a union or not -- and I actually don't view this as anti-union," he said. "Indiana's had a strong experience. ... They've seen thousands of jobs come to Indiana. Those jobs could also come to Michigan."
Several high-profile Democrats, though, have gotten involved, with Michigan Democratic Sen. Carl Levin and House Democrats meeting with Snyder on Monday and urging him to veto the bill.
President Obama also weighed in Monday, using a speech near Detroit to call out local Republicans.
"These so-called 'right-to-work' laws, they don't have anything to do with economics. They have everything to do with politics," Obama said. "What they're really talking about is they're giving you the right to work for less money."
The surprise move by Michigan Republicans last Thursday to approve the anti-union bills touched off a firestorm in the home of the U.S. auto industry. Following high-profile fights over union privileges in Wisconsin and Indiana, Michigan in an instant became the latest battleground in that struggle.
Several thousand union members gathered to protest on Tuesday. A block-and-a-half mass including autoworkers, sheet metal workers, machinists and electrical workers chanting, "We are the union, the mighty, might union" left the Lansing Center Tuesday morning , en route to City hall, across from the Capitol.
Though Republicans control the capital and have the votes to send the bill to Snyder's desk, opponents are planning to mount a legal challenge should that happen. Given the rapid manner with which the bills moved and the fact some demonstrators were kept out of the chambers, Democrats say they'll challenge under open-meetings laws.
The Detroit Free Press also reports that Democrats could try and challenge a provision that exempts police and firefighters.
However, any attempt to bring the proposal to referendum is complicated by the fact that the bill contained an appropriation -- and under Michigan law, appropriations bills cannot be challenged by popular vote.
In order to bring the "right-to-work" bill to referendum, supporters would have to first prove the appropriation to be somehow invalid or inappropriate.
Opponents could also launch recall campaigns against targeted Republicans in retaliation, as they did in Wisconsin following a vote that cracked down on collective bargaining.
Fox News' Mike Tobin and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/12/11/teachers-call-out-as-protests-rev-up-against-michigan-union-bill/#ixzz2ElV73BN3