Protests greet Mich. 'right-to-work' bill

  • NEW: AFL-CIO says workers in right-to-work states get less pay, fewer benefits
  • They oppose the governor's move to pass the legislation
  • The bill would limit workers' rights to strike and to picket
  • The legislature is planning to work through the weekend

(CNN) -- Thousands of people protested "right-to-work" legislation in and around Michigan's Capitol in Lansing, leading authorities to block entrance to the building, police said Thursday.

The capacity of the building had been exceeded, Michigan State Police Inspector Gene Adamczyk said.

The protesters were focused on a push by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder to seek "right-to-work" status for the state.
Under the bill, the right to strike and picket would be limited.

Adamczyk said "a couple of thousand people" were inside the Capitol and 1,000 to 2,000 or more were in the area.

One of the troopers used pepper spray against a protester who was among a group attempting to rush the state Senate chambers, Adamczyk said.

MSP spokeswoman Shannon Banner said eight people were taken into custody and face potential charges of assault and/or disobeying a lawful order from state police.

Some 50 Michigan state troopers were on the grounds and officers from the Lansing Police Department were patrolling the area.

In a video posted on his website, Snyder said he preferred to refer to the bill as "workplace fairness and equity" because "it's about being pro-worker and giving workers the freedom to choose whom they associate with."

He said the bill would also strengthen Michigan's competitive position relative to its neighbor, Indiana, which has already passed such a bill.

But Michigan State AFL-CIO President Karla Swift, in a statement posted on the United Auto Workers' website, said workers in right-to-work states make an average of $1,500 less per year and are less likely to have pensions or health care benefits.

"The growth rate for right-to-work states before they adopted such policies is actually higher than the growth rate for these states after they adopted these laws," she said.

Inside the Capitol, the Republican governor told reporters that the bills were introduced during Thursday's lame-duck session and that the legislature would proceed with the legislation for public and private employees, excluding police and firefighters.

The House was planning to meet Friday and over the weekend, days when it does not usually do business.

If Bill No. 4054 passes, it would go to the state Senate floor.

The GOP controls both the House and Senate.

CNN's John Fricke and Tom Watkins contributed to this report

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