Democrats, unionized workers fight right to work

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By Tyler Clifford
Ingham County Chronicle staff writer

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INGHAM COUNTY—Union supporters announced at Wednesday’s Ingham County Democratic Party meeting that they would protest March when Michigan’s right-to-work legislation goes into effect.

On March 28, democrats of the county plan to rally at the State Capitol at noon to chant for collective bargaining and frown on right to work laws that will take effect that day.

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Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum

“I’m looking forward to standing with my brothers and my sisters at the State Capitol,” Ingham County Clerk Barb Byrum said following the meeting Wednesday.  “I think the rally on Thursday is going to show those elected officials that we’re still there, we’re still here, we’re upset, and we do vote.”

Michigan’s right to work law would begin to bar unions from requiring employees to pay union dues on Thursday.

Jason Wilkes, employed at the General Motors assembly plant in Delta Township, said Wednesday that it scares him.

Right-to-work has been said to be a benefit to unions, but Wilkes said that they are designed to quiet unions.

“If the company say they don’t like you, they can let you go,” Wilkes said.  “It’s the right for an employer to say we’re going to pay you $7 an hour and you’re going to like it, or go somewhere else.”

The United Auto Workers have seven locals that represent its unionized workers in Ingham County.  The union pledges to fight for competitive wages, workplace safety, and other job securities.

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Nadine Reynolds is a part of the committee organizing the rallies against right to work legislation.

Nadine Reynolds is a part of the coordinating committee of the rallies that have taken place recently at the capitol.  A retired General Motors employee, she plans to show no retreat.

“Right to work is based on the concept that we no longer need unions, that they’ve outlived their usefulness,” said Reynolds.  “However, everybody does not conduct business fairly, so you need unions to protect the rights of people because, historically speaking, sometimes management needs a nudge to do things.”

Democrats say that Republican lawmakers have found a way to layout this unpopular measure by avoiding the people they represent.

“We were silenced and the right to work legislation was rushed during lame duck, undercover,” Byrum said.  “If you remember, they locked down the capitol.  They didn’t let people in.”

Wilkes said that his voice had been silenced as well by this law.

“I’ve been at every rally that we’ve had at the capitol,” he said.  “We attempted to meet with legislators to say that we’re not supporting this, but they were generally not available and did not wantto meet with anybody.  I’m one of your constituents—you’re there to represent the people but you don’t want to hear from the people.”

Reynolds said that this law is going into effect at a bad time with the talks of sequestration floating around.

“It’s like Michigan is getting hit with a double whammy,” she said.  “With sequestration and the right to work law, its going to have a huge impact on education.”

Reynolds said that Michigan stands to lose $42 million in education.  That includes a loss in $22 million for primary and secondary education with $20 million being lost for education funding for children with disabilities.

“We need unions, someone that’s going to look out for the best interest of the people,” she said.  “When you get rid of a union it leaves room for a lot of unnecessary conflict.”

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