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What Is Right To Work? Your Questions Answered About Michigan Anti-Union Legislation

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WHAT IS RIGHT TO WORK
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) | AP

LANSING, Mich. -- Here are five things to know about right-to-work legislation moving through 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 similar to union dues. The legislation prohibits what are known as "closed shops," where workers have no choice but to join a union.

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 on Thursday, brushing aside denunciations and walkouts by helpless Democrats and cries of outrage from union activists who swarmed the state Capitol hallways and grounds. Rules require a five-day wait before the House and Senate vote on each other's bills; lawmakers are scheduled to reconvene Tuesday, and Snyder has pledged to sign the bills into law.

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 - and a massive crowd is expected to return on Tuesday - but nobody sees a realistic shot at preventing it from passing and 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.

They plan to be mindful of the need to keep "the people's house" open if at all possible but keep a close eye on areas that are becoming overcrowded and close them off if necessary. They also will step up police presence as the crowd grows.

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