Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed into law legislation Tuesday removing the requirement that non-union members pay union dues.
Snyder’s signature makes Michigan, which has long been a stronghold of organized labor, the 24th right-to-work state in the country.
Protesters demonstrated outside Michigan’s Capitol building in Lansing while the Republican majority legislature voted.
Democrats on both the national and local level strongly criticized the two bills, saying they seriously hemorrhaged unions’ bargaining power. After both bills passed, Democrats in the Michigan House attempted to recall the public-sector legislation, but the vote failed.
Democrats criticized Snyder for shifting his position to support the new laws.
“I cannot believe that after two years of saying he did not support right-to-work, it was too divisive, the governor changed his position last week and took the lead on this issue. Shame on him,” Michigan state Rep. Joan Bauer (D) said before the vote.
Michigan state Rep. Rick Olson (R) said the new right-to-work legislation protected First Amendment rights.
“What is at stake here is the principal behind the right guaranteed us in the First Amendment of the United States constitution, that would be freedom of association which I believe gives us the right to associate with people and the right not to associate with others as one may choose,” Olson said. “I see it as tough love for our unions.”
Earlier in the day, Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) said signing the right-to-work laws would be a “frightful legacy” for Snyder.
“The governor will divide Michigan” if he signs the bills, Levin said. “That will be his legacy and that is a frightful legacy not only for him but the people of the state of Michigan and the middle class.”
President Obama strongly criticized the both bills in a visit to Michigan on Monday.
“I've just got to say this,” Obama said in comments at the Daimler Detroit Diesel plant. “What we shouldn't be doing is trying to take away your rights to bargain for better wages and working conditions. We shouldn't be doing that.”
Just before the vote, House Speaker Jase Bolger (R) called the bills a “game changer.”
“Today is a game changer for Michigan, for its workers, and for its future,” Bolger said.
--This report was originally published at 12:27 p.m. and last updated at 7:12 p.m.