WASHINGTON -- Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) met with Democrats in Michigan's congressional delegation on Monday morning on the controversial "right to work" bill being fast-tracked by the GOP-controlled state legislature.
Sen. Carl Levin, along with Reps. Hansen Clarke, Jon Conyers, Dave Curson, John Dingell, Sander Levin and Gary Peters, were in the meeting, according to a congressional aide involved. Rep.-elect Dan Kildee also attended. Sen. Debbie Stabenow was not at the meeting because of a previously scheduled tour of Hurricane Sandy damage in New Jersey, but she met with Snyder separately over the weekend and called in to the delegation's post-meeting press conference.
At the press conference, Levin said the Democratic lawmakers had urged the governor to veto the right-to-work bill or at least ask the legislature to delay its Tuesday vote on it. Snyder told them he would "seriously" consider their concerns, Levin said.
Peters spoke with The Huffington Post after the meeting and said if Snyder does sign the bill into law, he should at least support putting right to work before the public as a ballot initiative. Currently, the legislation is a spending bill, so it can't be put forward as a referendum.
"I asked the governor, if he's not willing to veto it or not willing to delay, certainly he has two options," said Peters. "One, there will be an amendment that will be proposed in the state legislature to put this to a vote of the people. Hopefully he will support it. If he can't support that amendment, he should, at a minimum, strike the line -- he has line-item veto power as state governor -- he should strike the line for the appropriation to allow the people of the state of Michigan to vote."
Michigan is set to become the 24th right-to-work state, after Republican lawmakers rushed through legislation on the issue. Michigan's rules require that the House and Senate wait five days before voting on each other's bills. The legislature is set to reconvene on Tuesday, when it is expected to approve final passage of the right-to-work legislation. Snyder could sign it the same day. Thousands of union supporters protested at the state capitol in Lansing last week, and more protests are expected in the coming days.
Right-to-work legislation would ban automatic payroll deductions of union dues. Supporters say workers who don't want to belong to a union shouldn't be forced to pay dues. Opponents, however, point out that these non-payers will reap the benefits of a unionized workplace without paying their fair share.
"What this is really about is defunding unions," said Steve Cook, president of Michigan Education Association, on Friday. "They're attacking the collective bargaining process. They want to force unions to basically have to provide services, benefits and the protections to non-members who will not pay a penny for them. It defunds unions. It cripples unions."
While labor officials acknowledge there is little they can do to stop the bill from becoming law at this point, unions are essentially declaring an all-out war on politicians who back right to work -- including raising the possibility of recalling them from office, as was attempted in Wisconsin.
"They've awakened a sleeping giant," United Auto Workers President Bob King told the Associated Press. "Not just union members. A lot of regular citizens, non-union households, realize this is a negative thing."
President Barack Obama is in Detroit on Monday for a speech on the so-called fiscal cliff, and he is expected to weigh in on right to work.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) also weighed in on the issue on Monday, illustrating the increased national attention the battle is receiving.
“This is a blatant attempt by Michigan Republicans to assault the collective bargaining process and undermine the standard of living it has helped foster," he said in a statement. "This effort continues a dangerous trend set by Republican-led state legislatures across the nation, and it is another instance of the Tea Party needlessly sowing division and setting Republicans' economic agenda. Elected officials, labor leaders and business leaders can and should work towards the common goals of job creation, improving our economy and strengthening middle-class families. But this partisan power grab is a setback to prospects for compromise."
When asked for comment about the meeting, Snyder spokeswoman Sara Wurfel told The Huffington Post, "It's just part of his commitment to being a good listener and having continued, open dialogue and building working relationships even when and where there are issues of disagreement. They expressed their concerns and views and the Governor did as well."
Ari Adler, press secretary for Michigan House Speaker Jase Bolger (R-Marshall), dismissed the involvement of the Democrats in the congressional delegation.
"Congressional Democrats are trying to tell Republicans in Michigan to slow down and not do our job in Lansing while they fail to resolve the nation's fiscal cliff crisis or even approve a budget," he told The Huffington Post in a statement. "Maybe they should spend less time lecturing others and focus on getting their own jobs done first. This is Lansing -- we get things done here."
This article was updated with additional details from the meeting.
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