The House voted 58-52 Thursday afternoon to approve the measure prohibiting most private unions from collecting fees from nonunion employees. The Senate was expected to follow later Thursday, but future votes are necessary because the versions are different.
Opponents of so-called right-to-work measures say they drain unions of money and weaken their ability to bargain for good wages and benefits. Supporters insist it would boost the economy and job creation.
A victory in Michigan would give the movement its strongest foothold yet in the Rust Belt region, where organized labor already has suffered several body blows.
But even before the votes, protesters streamed inside preparing for what appeared inevitable after Gov. Rick Snyder joined GOP legislative leaders Thursday morning in announcing they would push swift passage.
"This is all about taking care of the hard-working workers in Michigan, being pro-worker and giving them freedom to make choices," Snyder said during a news conference with House Speaker Jase Bolger and Senate Minority Leader Randy Richardville.
"The goal isn't to divide Michigan, it is to bring Michigan together," Snyder said.
Lt. Gov. Brian Calley repeatedly gaveled for order as Democratic senators denounced the legislation to applause from protesters in the galley. At one point, a man shouted, "Heil Hitler! Heil Hitler! That's what you people are." He was quickly escorted out. Another later yelled, "We will remember in November."
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