Posted at: 12/06/2012 4:02 PM
Updated at: 12/06/2012 10:48 PM
LANSING, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan Senate has passed right-to-work legislation, following earlier approval by the House.
The bills would prohibit unions from collecting fees from nonunion workers, which opponents say would weaken organized labor's ability to bargain for good wages while supporters say it would boost jobs.
A measure dealing with private-sector workers passed on a 22-16 vote Thursday after hours of impassioned debate. Four Republicans joined all 12 Democrats in opposition.
Moments after it passed, the Senate passed a bill with similar provisions for government employees. Democrats walked out before the bill was approved on a 22-4 vote.
Union activists repeatedly shouted protests from the gallery and cheered Democrats who denounced the measure.
Gov. Rick Snyder and GOP legislative leaders announced earlier Thursday they would put right-to-work on a fast track.
Many protesters were clad in union hats, coats and vests. They yelled just near a tent set up by the Michigan chapter of Americans for Prosperity, a champion of the legislation.
Teacher Michelle Cook of the Detroit suburb of Hamtramck says the leaders are "trying to erode our collective bargaining rights."
Police temporarily closed the Capitol because of concerns for the safety of people and the building with hundreds more protesters inside.
Obama opposes Michigan's right-to-work legislation
President Barack Obama has repeated his opposition to right-to-work laws in the wake of the Michigan House vote.
White House spokesman Matt Lehrich says Obama has long opposed right to work laws, "and he continues to oppose them now."
The spokesman says Obama believes the economy "is stronger when workers get good wages and good benefits, and he opposes attempts to roll back their rights."
Lehrich says Michigan workers' role in helping reviving the U.S. auto industry shows "how unions have helped build a strong middle class and a strong American economy."
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