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Protests Erupt In Michigan Capitol, After Governor Unveils Right-To-Work Bill

Police arrested several protesters and they threw mace at a crowd gathered at the Michigan State House today.

As the Detroit Free Press reports, State Police used "chemical munitions" when the crowd tried to rush the Senate floor.

All of this comes after Gov. Rick Snyder and the Republican legislature announced a bill that would make Michigan the country's 24th right-to-work state. The legislation is bound to set up a protracted confrontation between union activists and the legislature.

MLive.com reports:

"'I think this is what's best for Michigan,' the GOP governor said while flanked by House Speaker Jase Bolger, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, Lt. Brian Calley and three union members who support the law.

"'I do not view this as something against the unions,' Snyder said, saying it's about making sure 'workers have the right to chose who they associate with.'

"Police and fire unions would not be affected by the new law. Snyder cited the dangers of their jobs and their 'special bond and connection.'"

If this bill becomes law, paying union dues would become optional.

The Lansing State Journal reports that Snyder made the announcement after talks between him and union leaders "about heading off right-to-work legislation broke off Wednesday."

The Free Press posted video of the protests inside the state house. It shows demonstrators shouting on several levels of the rotunda. They grew louder as state police moved into the chambers to control the situation inside.

The images were very much reminiscent of what we saw in Wisconsin in 2011, when Gov. Scott Walker and his legislature introduced and passed a measure severely limiting the rights of public employees to bargain collectively. As you know, that was a protracted affair that culminated in a recall election that Walker won.

Reuters reports that Republican lawmakers believe there are enough votes to pass the measure. The wire service adds that in November, Michigan voters rejected a "measure that would have enshrined a right to collective bargaining in the state constitution."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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