MADISON -- As protesters descended on the Michigan Statehouse Tuesday, two controversial "right-to-work" measures that would weaken unions' power were signed into law. Meanwhile, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says he has no intentions of following Michigan's lead and signing right-to-work legislation in Wisconsin. Gov. Walker says an anti-labor bill would create a distraction -- not jobs.
In Michigan, the House approved two bills, which the Senate already passed last week. Both chambers are dominated by Republicans. On Tuesday evening, December 11th, Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, signed the legislation, which allows workers at union-represented employers to forgo paying dues.
Right-to-work supporters say the legislation protects workers and businesses. Opponents say it has one purpose: crippling labor unions.
Labor protests in Michigan are reminiscent of demonstrations over Act 10 in Madison in 2011.
"As the leader of the state who is committed to growing more jobs, I recognize the last thing I need if I want to see accelerated job growth over the next two or three years is any sort of a battle that would take attention away from that," Gov. Walker said.
Gov. Walker spoke in Pewaukee on Wednesday, during a workforce development meeting. Gov. Walker has said he has five priorities for his 2013 budget: job creation, workforce development, education reform, government waste elimination and transportation investment.
"I was elected to hone in on these things. These are the five priorities we're going to point out. Any time a piece of legislation comes up that distracts from that, we're going to draw both public and private attention to say that's not the right approach to do right now," Gov. Walker said.
Supporters of the right-to-work law, like that passed in Michigan, say it frees workers to make their own choices and gives flexibility to companies making hiring decisions.
"It's very concerning. If you look at the polling I've seen in Michigan about how the public there feels about right-to-work, they're not for it and by a large margin, so you have the Legislature there taking a major major step against what most people think should be happening," State Rep. Jon Richards (D - Milwaukee) said.
Rep. Richards says the right-to-work law would hurt the Wisconsin workforce, creating lower wage jobs.
"I hope we don't go down that road here. It's yet another divisive attack on the working people of Wisconsin -- and it's not the direction we should be going. We should be working to create jobs," Rep. Richards said.
When Gov. Walker was asked if he would sign a bill if it came to his desk, he said he wouldn't speculate.