Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 8, 2012

Region's lawmakers vote for right-to-work


TRAVERSE CITY — State legislators from the Grand Traverse region unanimously voted to adopt the contentious right-to-work law for Michigan, a move one local union leader described as a blatant attempt to break unions.

Sen. Howard Walker, R-Traverse City, acknowledged the legislation is extremely divisive. He said his Senate office received hundreds of calls from constituents on the legislation in the last week.

About 60 percent of the calls were in favor of Michigan being a right-to-work state and 40 percent against, he said.

"I think it is good for the state," Walker said, adding "I think it will provide more opportunities for more Michigan residents to be employed."

A local union official disagreed.

"They are looking to destroy unions," said Dave Fashbaugh, president of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers local #498 in Traverse City.

State Reps. Greg MacMaster, R-Kewadin, and Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, said they voted for the legislation to insure fairness for workers who don't want to be in a union and who don't want to be forced to pay dues.

"I think workers ... should be able to have a choice as to whether they want to join a union or not," MacMaster said.

"I did vote in favor of the bills," Schmidt said. "Ultimately, we've made a lot of reforms in Michigan, whether it's the tax code, the budget, and this is another piece of the pie. It gives workers the choice, the equality and fairness they deserve in the workplace. It doesn't eliminate collective bargaining and unions."

Fashbaugh said the legislation is part of a strategy by Michigan political leaders to reduce union rights. He said changes to the Michigan prevailing wage law also harmed union members because the prevailing wage law is now only enforced for union contracts. Non-union employers, he said, aren't pursued by the Michigan Attorney General's office when they ignore the prevailing wage law.

"A lack of work and a lack of good-paying jobs," Fashbaugh said of the impact right to work will have on the labor force.