Thursday, January 10, 2013

Michigan Union Activists Protest at Capitol Against Anti-Labor Laws

Union activists protest at Capitol to welcome GOP lawmakers

11:03 AM, January 9, 2013 |
By Paul Egan

Detroit Free Press Lansing Bureau

LANSING — More than 100 union activists set up a “Walk of Shame” this morning to greet Republican lawmakers as they arrived at the Capitol for a new session of the Legislature.

But one of the only Republicans to brave the gauntlet — former Lt. Gov. Dick Posthumus, now a senior adviser to Gov. Rick Snyder — walked the path lined on either side with placard-carrying protesters without hearing a single catcall, after nobody recognized him.

“You got off easy,” a Michigan State Police trooper told Posthumus as he entered the Capitol.

“That’s a good thing,” Posthumus replied.

Posthumus appeared unaware of the protest until he was already partly up the main path. Lieutenant governors, like vice presidents, are often the butt of jokes for their supposed anonymity, but Posthumus appears to have slipped into further obscurity since he left the Engler administration for an unsuccessful bid for governor and a stint in the private sector before joining the Snyder administration at the start of 2011.

“It doesn’t take long to be forgotten,” Posthumus told the Free Press.

John Marler, 27, of Detroit, a union steward for Unite Here Local 24 who is a beer vendor at Detroit sports venues, said he would have liked to tell Posthumus: “This is not the way democracy is supposed to work.”

“I didn’t recognize him at all,” he said.

Democrats and unions were enraged in December when the GOP-controlled Legislature passed right-to-work legislation in five days. Snyder, who for two years had said the issue was not on his agenda, came out in favor of the measure and quickly signed it into law. Right-to-work legislation makes it illegal to require financial support of a union as a condition of employment.

“That was the rub for me, with Snyder,” Marler said. “That says something about his leadership.”

Snyder has said he would not have tacked the divisive issue at that time, but he supports freedom of choice for workers. Once it was clear the issue wasn’t going away, he said it was his responsibility as a leader to take a position and get the issue settled as quickly as possible.

Before the noon start of today’s ceremonial session, members of We are Michigan, who organized the demonstration, plan to deliver fresh cookies to lawmakers who opposed right-to-work and “broken cookies for broken promises” to those who opposed it.

Demonstrators chanted, “No union, no peace,” and carried signs with message such as “RTW, Wrong for Michigan,” and placards with photos of Republican lawmakers with the word “Shame” stamped across their faces.

Most lawmakers don’t enter from the front facing Capitol Avenue, instead using entrances off the parking lot on the other side of the building. A smaller group of protesters split off to greet lawmakers at the rear entrance.

Greg McNeilly, president of the Michigan Freedom Fund supporting the right-to-work law, said it’s the union activists who should be ashamed.

“Unfortunately, when it comes to the union thugs and anti-worker lawmakers bullying workers and opposing workplace freedom and equality for all Michigan families, shame seems to be in far too short a supply,” McNeilly said in a news release.

The labor legislation wasn’t the only one that drew protesters. Others carried signs reading. “I stand with Planned Parenthood,” in opposition to abortion legislation passed during the lame-duck session in December.

Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or

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