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Unions vow political payback for Michigan's right-to-work law

| Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012, 8:58 p.m.

LANSING, Mich. — With defeat in the Michigan Legislature virtually certain, Democrats and organized labor intend to make enactment of right-to-work laws as uncomfortable as possible for Gov. Rick Snyder and his Republican allies while laying the groundwork to seek payback at the polls.

Opponents of the laws spent the weekend mapping protests and acts of civil disobedience, while acknowledging the reality that Republican majorities in the House and Senate cannot be stopped or delayed by parliamentary maneuvers. Leaders vowed to resist to the end, and then set their sights on winning control of the Legislature and defeating Snyder when he seeks re-election in 2014.

“They've awakened a sleeping giant,” United Auto Workers President Bob King said on Saturday in a union hall, where about 200 activists attended a planning session.

Right-to-work laws prohibit requiring employees to join a union or pay fees similar to union dues as a condition of employment. Supporters say it's about freedom of association for workers and a better business climate. Critics contend the real intent is to bleed unions of money and bargaining power.

Hundreds of demonstrators thronged the state Capitol last week as bills were introduced and approved hours later, without the usual committee hearings allowing for public comment. Even more protesters are expected Tuesday, when the two chambers may reconcile wording differences and send final versions to Snyder, who now pledges to sign them after saying repeatedly since his 2010 election the issue wasn't “on my agenda.”

Republicans are betting any political damage will be short-lived. Last week, Snyder urged labor to accept the inevitable and focus on showing workers why union representation is in their best interest.

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