Another Sour NYTimes Story on Michigan's Right-to-Work Legislation Tilts Toward Losing Labor Side

On Tuesday, as the traditionally labor-friendly state of Michigan was on the verge of passing landmark right-to-work legislation that would forbid unions to coerce membership dues from workers, New York Times reporter Monica Davey again focused instead on the losing pro-union side in her reporting from Lansing: "Michigan Fight Cleaves Labor Stronghold as Limits on Unions Near Passage."

Davey's first quote came from of all people, President Obama, a strong opponent of the legislation who was visiting Detroit.

With Democratic furor escalating and party leaders warning that Michigan was about to be plunged into lasting political discord, the state’s Republican-led Legislature was on the verge of approving new limits to unions here in the birthplace of the modern labor movement.

Republicans said they intended to cast final votes as early as Tuesday on legislation abruptly announced last week that would bar workers from being required to pay union fees as a condition of employment, even as thousands of union members planned to protest at the state Capitol and as President Obama, visiting a truck factory outside Detroit, denounced the notion.

“You know, these so-called right-to-work laws, they don’t have to do with economics,” Mr. Obama said. “They have everything to do with politics. What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money.”

From a distance, there would seem no more unlikely a target for this fight than Michigan, where labor, hoping to demonstrate strength after a series of setbacks, asked voters last month to enshrine collective bargaining into the state Constitution.

But that ballot measure failed badly, and suddenly a reverse drive was under way that has brought the state to a moment startling in its symbolism. How the home of the United Automobile Workers finds itself close to becoming the 24th state to ban compulsory union fees -- and only the second state to pass such legislation in a decade -- is the latest chapter in a larger battle over the role of unions in the nation’s midsection.

Davey portrayed the arguments in pro-union fashion instead of focusing on the greater good of the struggling state.

Still, labor leaders complained that [Gov. Rick] Snyder and lawmakers were harming unions in other ways: trying to prevent school districts from deducting dues from paychecks, for instance, and allowing state-appointed managers to toss out union contracts in the most financially troubled cities. Labor leaders went on the offensive, proposing the unusual ballot measure to enshrine collective bargaining rights into the state Constitution, a move Mr. Snyder opposed.