Traverse City Record-Eagle

Michigan

December 11, 2012

Evidence elusive in right-to-work debate

LANSING — Gov. Rick Snyder says one reason he supports right-to-work legislation in Michigan is the economic boost a similar law has given Indiana, although officials have provided no conclusive evidence that the policy by itself has drawn new businesses to the state next door.

It's an example of the flurry of claims supporters and opponents were making as the Michigan Legislature prepared to reconvene today for what could be final votes on right-to-work bills that have inspired fierce protests from unions and their Democratic allies, including President Barack Obama. Lansing authorities were bracing for an onslaught of demonstrators, increasing police presence and planning road closings and parking restrictions around the Capitol.

Snyder, a Republican who said repeatedly during his first two years in office that right-to-work wasn't a priority for him, reversed course last week by endorsing bills that would prohibit requiring nonunion employees to pay unions for negotiating contracts and other services. Within hours, bills were rushed through the GOP-dominated House and Senate as Democrats angrily objected and chanting union activists clogged the hallways.

During a news conference explaining his decision, Snyder said he had been impressed by results in Indiana, another Rust Belt state and historical labor stronghold that enacted a right-to-work law earlier this year.

"They've had 90 companies in the pipeline for economic development say this was a factor in deciding to look to come to Indiana," he said. "That's thousands of jobs. We need more and better jobs in Michigan."

Spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said Snyder's comment was based on information provided by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation. She said the agency had reported that 67 of those prospective companies had "progressed to the pipeline stage."

"Of these 67 companies, 31 companies have already accepted the IEDC's offer, accounting for more than 3,700 projected new jobs and more than $431 million in investment," Wurfel said in an email, referring to information provided by the Indiana agency.

It was unclear what was meant by "the pipeline stage" or "the IEDC's offer." Katelyn Hancock, spokeswoman for the Indiana agency, told The Associated Press that "90 companies have communicated to the IEDC that Indiana's enactment of right-to-work will factor into their decision-making process of where to locate current projects."

Hancock added, "Out of respect for companies, all discussions are confidential until we have completed negotiations and have a final acceptance from them."

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