Traverse City Record-Eagle

December 9, 2012

Lansing vote motivates state's union members


---- — LANSING (AP) — Jill Laurin-Maxwell, a teacher from Lapeer, had tears in her eyes as she asked United Auto Workers President Bob King, "Are we going to be OK?"

The two were among hundreds of union members and leaders licking their wounds at the Michigan Capitol Thursday night after a swift, double-barreled attack: Both the House and Senate introduced and passed legislation in one day approving right-to-work laws limiting labor groups' powers.

King, whose private attempts to forge a compromise with Republican Gov. Rick Snyder failed earlier in the week, said in effect, "We will."

"Never have all the unions come together as strongly as they are now," he counseled Laurin-Maxwell. "In every crisis, there's opportunity."

Is such an opportunity possible or is it putting on a good face in the wake of stinging defeat? One labor expert said the issue itself is enough to corral the labor movement, but making real change will be their ultimate test.

"This would definitely galvanize union leadership," said Art Schwartz, a retired General Motors labor negotiator who teaches at Wayne State University and runs a labor consulting business. "Like any other group, some people get involved, some people don't, but I think you're going to see the unions fight this every way they can."

A civil disobedience training session was scheduled for Saturday at a union local in Dearborn and grassroots protests were being planned across the state throughout the weekend. But many labor groups were gearing up for mass rally in Lansing on Tuesday when legislators return to session and aim to finish work on the right-to-work bills.

The scene at the state Capitol certainly suggested a united front for labor. Thousands of protesters from many groups massed outside the Capitol or ringed the rotunda and clogged the halls inside, chanting, whistling and stomping. Out of concerns for the safety of people and the historic building, authorities said, they temporarily closed the building and kept hundreds outside.