5 things to know about Michigan right-to-work bills

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Here are five things to know about right-to-work legislation approved by the Michigan Legislature:

THE NAME IS MISLEADING

It isn't about a right to work but rather a right for workers to choose whether they want to join a union or pay fees that amount to union dues. The legislation prohibits what are known as "closed shops," where workers have no choice but to join a union or pay those fees.

IT'S MOVING SWIFTLY

The GOP majority used its superior numbers and backing from Gov. Rick Snyder to ramrod legislation through the House and Senate last week, and the House returned to render final votes on Tuesday. They brushed aside denunciations and challenges by helpless Democrats and cries of outrage from thousands of union activists who swarmed the state Capitol hallways and grounds. Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law, and that could come as early as Wednesday.

BUT NOT GOING OVER EASILY

Supporters, including Republican leaders in the Legislature and the Michigan Chamber of Commerce, insist it's about freedom of association for workers and a better business climate. Critics, including Democrats and Michigan's sizable labor contingent, contend the real intent is to bleed unions of money and bargaining power and allow nonunion workers to get the perks without paying for it. Thousands have come to protest at the Michigan Capitol, but nobody sees a realistic shot at preventing it being signed into law.

IT'S NOT THE FIRST

Michigan would become the 24th state with such laws. And victory in the Great Lakes State would give the right-to-work movement its strongest foothold yet in the Rust Belt region, where organized labor already has suffered several body blows. Republicans in Indiana and Wisconsin recently pushed through legislation curbing union rights, sparking long, massive protests.

RUST BELT RERUN?

Law enforcement officials vow Michigan won't become "another Wisconsin," where demonstrators occupied the state Capitol around the clock for nearly three weeks. They've taken steps to prevent that.

Last Thursday, eight people were arrested -- and a few of them pepper-sprayed -- after authorities say they disobeyed orders and tried to rush past two state troopers and into the Senate chamber. Out of concerns for the safety of people and the historic building, authorities said, they temporarily closed the building and kept hundreds outside. A judge later ordered it reopened.

Police say they are mindful of the need to keep "the people's house" open if at all possible but are keeping a close eye on areas that are becoming overcrowded and will close them off if necessary. They also have significantly stepped up police presence to correspond with the number of demonstrators coming from across the state and beyond.

They say they used pepper spray again Tuesday to subdue a protester outside the Capitol who had his hands on a female trooper being pulled into a crowd. Police also arrested two people after they tried to get into a state office building where the governor has an office.

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