LANSING, Mich. — Over the chants of thousands of angry protesters, Republican lawmakers made Michigan a right-to-work state Tuesday, dealing a devastating and once-unthinkable defeat to organized labor in a place that has been a bastion of the movement for generations.

The GOP-dominated House ignored Democrats' pleas to delay the final passage and instead approved two bills with the same ruthless efficiency that the Senate showed last week. One measure dealt with private-sector workers, the other with government employees. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder signed them both within hours, calling them "pro-worker and pro-Michigan."

"This is about freedom, fairness and equality," House Speaker Jase Bolger said during the floor debate. "These are basic American rights – rights that should unite us."

After the vote, he said, Michigan's future "has never been brighter, because workers are free."

The state where the United Auto Workers was founded and labor has long been a political titan will join 23 others with right-to-work laws, which ban requirements that nonunion employees pay unions for negotiating contracts and other services.

Supporters say the laws give workers more choice and support economic growth, but critics insist the real intent is to weaken organized labor by encouraging workers to "freeload" by withholding money unions need to bargain effectively.

Protesters in the Capitol gallery chanted "Shame on you!" as the measures were adopted. Union backers clogged the hallways and grounds shouting "No justice, no peace." And Democrats warned that hard feelings over the legislation and Republicans' refusal to hold committee hearings or allow a statewide referendum would be long lasting.

U.S. Sen. Carl Levin and other Democrats in the state's congressional delegation met with Snyder on Monday and urged him to slow things down.

"For millions of Michigan workers, this is no ordinary debate," Levin said after the House vote. "It's an assault on their right to have their elected bargaining agent negotiate their pay, benefits and working conditions, and to have all who benefit from such negotiations share in some way in the cost of obtaining them."

The crowds were considerably smaller than those drawn by right-to-work legislation in Indiana earlier this year and in Wisconsin in 2011 during consideration of a law curtailing collective bargaining rights for most state employees. Those measures provoked weeks of intense debate, with Democrats boycotting sessions to delay action and tens of thousands of activists occupying statehouses.

In Michigan, Republicans acted so quickly that opponents had little time to plan massive resistance.

Snyder and GOP leaders announced their intentions last Thursday. Within hours, the bills were hurriedly pushed through the Senate as powerless Democrats objected. After a legally required five-day waiting period, the House approved final passage.

The governor said he saw no reason not to sign the bills immediately, especially with demonstrators still hoping to dissuade him.

"They can finish up, and they can go home because they know ... making more comments on that is not going to change the outcome," he said. "I view this as simply trying to get this issue behind us."

Snyder said he expects the law to be challenged in court but believes it will stand. He said unions were largely responsible for its divisiveness, having ignored his advice and pushed an unsuccessful November ballot initiative seeking to make right-to-work laws unconstitutional. The bitter campaign over the ballot measure put the issue on center-stage.

"Introducing freedom-to-work in Michigan will contribute to our state's economic comeback while preserving the roles of unions and collective bargaining," Snyder said.

Protesters began assembling before daylight outside the sandstone-and-brick Capitol, chanting and whistling in the chilly darkness and waving placards with slogans such as "Stop the War on Workers." Others joined a three-block march to the building, some wearing coveralls and hard hats.

Valerie Constance, a reading instructor for the Wayne County Community College District and member of the American Federation of Teachers, sat on the Capitol steps with a sign shaped like a tombstone. It read: "Here lies democracy."

"I do think this is a very sad day in Michigan history," Constance said.

The crowds filled the rotunda area, beating drums and chanting. The chorus rose to a deafening thunder as House members voted. Later, protesters surged toward a building across the street housing Snyder's office. Two people were arrested when they tried to get inside, state police said.

By late afternoon, the demonstrators had mostly dispersed.

The governor insisted the matter wasn't handled with undue haste, calling the debate in the House and Senate a "healthy discussion."

Michigan gives the right-to-work movement its strongest foothold yet in the Rust Belt, where the 2010 election and tea party movement produced assertive Republican majorities that have dealt unions repeated setbacks.

Opponents said they would press Snyder to use his line-item veto authority to remove a $1 million appropriation from the bills, making them eligible for a statewide referendum. But the House swiftly rejected a Democratic amendment to that effect.

Lawmakers who backed the bills "will be held accountable at the ballot box in 2014," said state Rep. Tim Greimel, the incoming House Democratic leader.

But Sen. John Proos, a Republican from St. Joseph who voted for both bills, predicted that objections would fade as the shift in policy brings more jobs to Michigan.

"As they say in sports," he said, "the atmosphere in the locker room gets a lot better when the team's winning."

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  • Protesters Hold Signs Outside Of Michigan Capitol

    LANSING, MI, - DECEMBER 11: Union members from around the country rally at the Michigan State Capitol to protest a vote on Right-to-Work legislation December 11, 2012 in Lansing, Michigan. Republicans control the Michigan House of Representatives, and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has said he will sign the bill if it is passed. The new law would make requiring financial support of a union as a condition of employment illegal. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

  • Protesters Flood Lansing

    LANSING, MI, - DECEMBER 11: Union members from around the country rally at the Michigan State Capitol to protest a vote on Right-to-Work legislation December 11, 2012 in Lansing, Michigan. Republicans control the Michigan House of Representatives, and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has said he will sign the bill if it is passed. The new law would make requiring financial support of a union as a condition of employment illegal. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

  • Protesters Flood The Capitol

    Protesters gather for a rally at the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation passed last week. Michigan could become the 24th state with a right-to-work law next week. Rules required a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other's bills; lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday and Gov. Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

  • Protesters gather for a rally at the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation passed last week. Michigan could become the 24th state with a right-to-work law next week. Rules required a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other's bills; lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday and Gov. Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

  • A protester walks past Michigan State Police at the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation passed last week. Michigan could become the 24th state with a right-to-work law next week. Rules required a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other's bills; lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday and Gov. Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

  • Sheet metal workers from Toledo escort an inflatable rat during a march to the State Capitol grounds in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation that was passed by the state legislature last week. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

  • Thousands of supporters rally at the State Capitol grounds in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation that was passed by the state legislature last week. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

  • Union members Brian Brissette, of Auburn, Mich., from left, Tom Gazley, of Romeo, Mich., and Eric Kozlow, of Warren, Mich., watch the Michigan House of Representatives vote on a television in the at the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation passed last week. Michigan could become the 24th state with a right-to-work law next week. Rules required a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other's bills; lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday and Gov. Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

  • Michigan State Police surround a man who was allegedly knocked off his segway scooter by a sheriff deputy on horseback during a rally on the State Capitol grounds in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation that was passed by the state legislature last week. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

  • Protesters gather for a rally in the rotunda at the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation passed last week. Michigan could become the 24th state with a right-to-work law next week. Rules required a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other's bills; lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday and Gov. Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

  • Thousands of supporter march to the State Capitol grounds in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation that was passed by the state legislature last week. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

  • Michigan State Police stand guard at an entrance to the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation that was passed by the state legislature last week. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

  • Protesters gather for a rally in the rotunda at the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation passed last week. Michigan could become the 24th state with a right-to-work law next week. Rules required a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other's bills; lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday and Gov. Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

  • Protesters gather for a rally outside the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation passed last week. Michigan could become the 24th state with a right-to-work law next week. Rules required a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other's bills; lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday and Gov. Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

  • RIGHT TO WORK

    Map locating all U.S. states with right-to-work laws.

  • Tuesday Protests

    People begin gathering outside on the State Capitol grounds in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012 to protest right-to-work legislation that was passed by the state legislature last week. Michigan will become the 24th right-to-work state, banning requirements that nonunion employees pay unions for negotiating contracts and other services. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

  • Right to Work Michigan

    A protester holds a sign addressed to Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, who refers to himself as "one tough nerd."

  • State Police Brace For Protesters

    Michigan State Police cruisers line the pedestrian walkway west of the state Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Monday, Dec. 10, 2012. Lansing authorities were bracing for an onslaught of protesters Tuesday. They increased police presence and planned road closings and parking restrictions around the Capitol for the planned protests against the Michigan legislature's right-to-work proposals which passed last week. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

  • Right to Work Protesters

    United Auto Workers protest right to work.

  • Tuesday Protesters

    Thousands of protesters gather for a rally on the State Capitol grounds in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation that was passed by the state legislature last week. Michigan will become the 24th right-to-work state, banning requirements that nonunion employees pay unions for negotiating contracts and other services. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

  • Michigan Nurses

    About a dozen members of the Michigan Nurses Association stand on the state Capitol steps in Lansing, Mich., Monday, Dec. 10, 2012, protesting right-to-work legislation. Organizers say the gathering was meant to symbolize the silencing of unions that nurses say will happen should the legislation become law.(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

  • Silenced

    Debbie Nault from the Michigan Nurses Association stands with other members of the association on the state Capitol steps in Lansing, Mich., Monday, Dec. 10, 2012, protesting right-to-work legislation. Organizers say the gathering was meant to symbolize the silencing of unions that nurses say will happen should the legislation become law.(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

  • Longtime Nurse Protests

    Linda Erspamer a veteran nurse of more than 30 years at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, stands with other dozen members of the Michigan Nurses Association on the state Capitol steps in Lansing, Mich., Monday, Dec. 10, 2012, protesting right-to-work legislation. Organizers say the gathering was meant to symbolize the silencing of unions that nurses say will happen should the legislation become law.(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

  • Thousands Gather

    Thousands of protesters gather for a rally on the State Capitol grounds in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation that was passed by the state legislature last week. Michigan will become the 24th right-to-work state, banning requirements that nonunion employees pay unions for negotiating contracts and other services. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

  • Blocking RTW Banner

    Protesters stand and block a right-to-work banner on the State Capitol grounds in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation that was passed by the state legislature last week. Michigan will become the 24th right-to-work state, banning requirements that nonunion employees pay unions for negotiating contracts and other services. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

  • Holding The Flag

    A protester holds an American flag at a rally on the State Capitol grounds in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation passed last week. Michigan could become the 24th state with a right-to-work law next week. Rules required a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other's bills; lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday and Gov. Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

  • Protesters In The Capitol

    Protesters gather for a rally in the State Capitol rotunda in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation passed last week. Michigan could become the 24th state with a right-to-work law next week. Rules required a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other's bills; lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday and Gov. Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

  • Capitol Filled

    Union workers fill the entire of the Capitol rotunda in Lansing, Mich., Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. Hundreds of chanting and cheering protesters streamed back into the Michigan Capitol after receiving a court order saying that the building must reopen. The pro-union crowd walked in as lawmakers were debating right-to-work legislation limiting union powers. The Republican-led House subsequently passed the bill with no Democratic support.

  • Led Away

    Protesters are led out of the State Capitol Building in handcuffs after demonstrating against right-to-work legislation inside the Capitol in downtown Lansing, Mich. Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. Eight people were arrested for resisting and obstructing when they tried to push past two troopers guarding the Senate door, state police Inspector Gene Adamczyk said. The Capitol was temporarily closed because of safety concerns.

  • Handcuffed

    Protesters are led out of the State Capitol Building in handcuffs after demonstrating against right-to-work legislation inside the Capitol in downtown Lansing, Mich. Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. Eight people were arrested for resisting and obstructing when they tried to push past two troopers guarding the Senate door, state police Inspector Gene Adamczyk said. The Capitol was temporarily closed because of safety concerns.

  • Blocked

    State Police block protesters outside the Senate chamber at the State Capitol Building in downtown Lansing, Mich. Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. Eight people were arrested for resisting and obstructing when they tried to push past two troopers guarding the Senate door, state police Inspector Gene Adamczyk said. The Capitol was temporarily closed because of safety concerns.

  • Thumbs Down

    David Dudenhoefer, left, a right to work supporter, receives a thumbs down sign from a union worker during a rally in Lansing, Mich., Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. Tensions rose at the Capitol late Wednesday afternoon when hundreds of union members packed into the rotunda area, blowing whistles and shouting slogans such as "Union buster" and "Right to work has got to go." Senate Republicans introduced right-to-work legislation in the waning days of the legislative session as outnumbered Democrats pledged to resist the proposal and say rushing it through would poison the state's political atmosphere.

  • Fed

    Protesters eat pizza outside the Senate chamber at the State Capitol Building in downtown Lansing, Mich. Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. So-called right-to-work measures generally prohibit requiring unions from collecting fees from nonunion employees, which opponents say drains unions of money and weakens their ability to bargain for good wages and benefits. Supporters insist it would boost the economy and job creation.

  • Union Workers Rally

    Union workers rally outside the Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012 as Senate Republicans introduced right-to-work legislation in the waning days of the legislative session. The outnumbered Democrats pledged to resist the proposal and said rushing it through the legislative system would poison the state's political atmosphere.

  • UAW President Bob King Waits

    United Auto Workers President Bob King waits outside the Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012 as Senate Republicans introduced right-to-work legislation in the waning days of the legislative session. The outnumbered Democrats pledged to resist the proposal and said rushing it through the legislative system would poison the state's political atmosphere.

  • Rally Day

    A union steel worker holds up a sign during a rally outside the Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012 as Senate Republicans introduced right-to-work legislation in the waning days of the legislative session. The outnumbered Democrats pledged to resist the proposal and said rushing it through the legislative system would poison the state's political atmosphere.

  • Sheet Metal Workers Bring GOP Rats to Protest

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Paul_Pimentel"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://graph.facebook.com/1419408869/picture?type=square" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Paul_Pimentel">Paul Pimentel</a>:<br />Sheet Metal Workers' Local 292 Detroit on RTW Protest 12/11/2012 Lansing, MI show our support Bob Donaldson Business Manager and Journeyman Earl Gray

  • The Welcoming Committee

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Concernedwm"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://s.huffpost.com/images/profile/user_placeholder.gif" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Concernedwm">Concernedwm</a>:<br />Gov. Snyder took theses folks away from protecting the public to intimidate and inhibit the voice of the people. G. Hines

  • Protester Paula Merwin, of Leslie, Mich., stands with an American flag outside the George W. Romney State Building, where Gov. Snyder has an office in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation passed last week. Michigan could become the 24th state with a right-to-work law next week. Rules required a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other's bills; lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday and Gov. Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

  • Protester Blake Nance, of Detroit, stands by a line of Michigan State Police guarding the George W. Romney State Building, where Gov. Snyder has an office in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation passed last week. Michigan could become the 24th state with a right-to-work law next week. Rules required a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other's bills; lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday and Gov. Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

  • A man covers his face after getting pepper sprayed during a protest outside the George W. Romney Office Building in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. Thousands of protesters rallied outside the state Capitol as lawmakers pushed final versions of right-to-work legislation. The GOP majority has used its superior numbers and backing from Gov. Rick Snyder to speed the legislation through the House and Senate last week, brushing aside denunciations and walkouts by helpless Democrats and cries of outrage from union activists who swarmed the state Capitol hallways and grounds. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

  • United we Bargain Divided We Beg!

    <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Ryan_Van_Note"><img style="float:left;padding-right:6px !important;" src="http://graph.facebook.com/1640357026/picture?type=square" /></a><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/social/Ryan_Van_Note">Ryan Van Note</a>:<br />Ryan VanNote protesting Right to work in Lansing, MI 12/11/12.

  • A protester rallies in front of Michigan State Police at the George W. Romney State Building, where Gov. Snyder has an office in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation passed last week. Michigan could become the 24th state with a right-to-work law next week. Rules required a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other's bills; lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday and Gov. Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

  • Michigan State Police push the crowd back outside the George W. Romney Office Building in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. Thousands of protesters rallied outside the state Capitol as lawmakers pushed final versions of right-to-work legislation. The GOP majority has used its superior numbers and backing from Gov. Rick Snyder to speed the legislation through the House and Senate last week, brushing aside denunciations and walkouts by helpless Democrats and cries of outrage from union activists who swarmed the state Capitol hallways and grounds. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

  • Michigan State Police surround the George W. Romney State Office Building as thousands of protesters rally outside the state Capitol as lawmakers push final versions of right-to-work legislation in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The GOP majority has used its superior numbers and backing from Gov. Rick Snyder to speed the legislation through the House and Senate last week, brushing aside denunciations and walkouts by helpless Democrats and cries of outrage from union activists who swarmed the state Capitol hallways and grounds. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

  • Protesters sit during a rally at the George W. Romney State Building, where Gov. Snyder has an office in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation passed last week. Michigan could become the 24th state with a right-to-work law next week. Rules required a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other's bills; lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday and Gov. Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

  • Michigan State Police push protesters away from the entrance of the George W. Romney State Building, where Gov. Snyder has an office in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation passed last week. Michigan could become the 24th state with a right-to-work law next week. Rules required a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other's bills; lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday and Gov. Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

  • Rev. Jesse Jackson, left, and Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero, right, try to enter past Michigan State Police at the George W. Romney State Building, where Gov. Snyder has an office in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation passed last week. Michigan could become the 24th state with a right-to-work law next week. Rules required a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other's bills; lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday and Gov. Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

  • Michigan State Police carry a protester from a rally at the George W. Romney State Building, where Gov. Snyder has an office in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation passed last week. Michigan could become the 24th state with a right-to-work law next week. Rules required a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other's bills; lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday and Gov. Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

  • Drew Dobson, of Coleman, Mich., protests at a rally at the State Capitol in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation passed last week. Michigan could become the 24th state with a right-to-work law next week. Rules required a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other's bills; lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday and Gov. Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)p

  • Protesters sit during a rally outside the doors of the George W. Romney State Building, where Gov. Snyder has an office in Lansing, Mich., Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. The crowd is protesting right-to-work legislation passed last week. Michigan could become the 24th state with a right-to-work law next week. Rules required a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other's bills; lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday and Gov. Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)