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Michigan Nurses, Laborers, Other Workers Urge Gov. Snyder to Stop Harmful “Right to Work” Push

Michigan Nurses Association Press Release Press Release, 12/5/12

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Legislation motivated by retaliation will hurt working families

Registered nurses, laborers and food and commercial workers from across Michigan are urging Gov. Snyder to stop the politically motivated attacks on working families by publicly pledging to veto any so-called “right to work” legislation that reaches his desk.

A “right to work” bill – also known as “Right to Work For Less” and “No Rights at Work” legislation – was said to be pending at the Capitol today as corporations poured millions into ads designed to mislead the public. It is already illegal to force someone to join a union or pay dues for political causes they don’t support.

“’Right to work’ laws will hurt nurses’ ability to protect our patients by making it harder for us to push back against corporations that only care about their profit margins,” said Cheryl Weston, a longtime registered nurse at McLaren Lapeer Region and a member of the Michigan Nurses Association. “Undermining our collective voice as workers only gives corporations more advantages.  Everyone who is represented by a union receives the same benefits of collective bargaining, so it’s only right that all workers pay their fair share. We need Gov. Snyder to step up and protect OUR right to work in an environment that’s best for us and our patients.”

Nurses and other front-line workers have been at the Capitol regularly talking to their legislators about how “right to work (for less)” will silence their voices in the workplace and is wrong for Michigan. In “right to work” states, all workers – both union and nonunion – make an average of $1,500 less per year and are less likely to have family-supporting health insurance and pensions. (Lafer, 2011) “Right to work” laws do not lead to economic growth – they are simply a way to silence workers’ voices.

“Let’s be clear, this bill isn’t about rights and it’s not about work,” said Jonathan Byrd with the Michigan Laborers. “Our members are ready to rebuild Michigan’s economy by fixing our crumbling roads and bridges, but a so-called ‘Right to Work’ law would make it harder for construction workers to negotiate fair wages, benefits, and safety on the job. Politicians in Lansing need to get their priorities straight, and focus on creating good-paying jobs in Michigan, not undermining the rights of middle class families.”

The motives of some legislators are troubling, said Jeff Breslin, a Sparrow Hospital RN and president of the 11,000-member Michigan Nurses Association. The union represents both private sector and public sector nurses.

“What’s especially disturbing is that the so-called ‘right to work’ push is coming from a number of legislators who are acting out of anger toward unions rather than what’s best for Michigan,” Breslin said.  “One legislator told us flat out that he will vote ‘yes’ on RTW strictly because the labor community supported his opponent. Michigan’s working families deserve better than to be punished by leaders using their power to get revenge.”

“Our state is in need of real, meaningful economic stimulation,” said Jim Mesich, a UFCW 876 Kroger meat cutter from Warren. “If big business is allowed to continue its manipulation of our legislative process, our government will continue to take money out of the pockets of our hard-working citizenry in the name of economic recovery, and Right to Work legislation will be the vehicle to take everyone to the ranks of the working poor.”

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The Michigan Nurses Association represents nearly 11,000 members statewide, advocating for them and their patients.  The Michigan Laborers District Council has more than 12,000 members, and proudly represents Michigan’s hardworking, middle class families.  Approximately 17,000 workers belong to UFCW 876, whose members work for a variety of retailers including Kroger, Hollywood Markets, Hiller’s and Rite Aid, along with numerous other companies in industries including food processing, automotive supply, and health care.

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