Right-to-work protesters hope to get through to governor via Christmas carols
Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com
About 35 opponents of the right-to-work legislation gathered outside Gov. Rick Snyder's gated community near Ann Arbor Monday at 5:30 p.m.
They didn't shout. They didn't chant.
Instead, they sang.
The group sang Christmas carols and other holiday songs in a peaceful effort to try and get the governor's attention before he signs the legislation into law.
The right-to-work legislation, which has garnered national attention, would allow union members to not be required to pay dues.
The group sang "Jingle Bells," "Joy to the World" and a customized version of "The 12 Days of Christmas" with children learning, auto workers welding, police protecting, shoppers shopping, teachers teaching, families eating and firefighters saving replacing the traditional lyrics.
Two deputies from the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office watched the event from afar. A Michigan State Police patrol car was also near the scene. But the protest didn't end in arrests like the rally in Lansing last week There were also no other groups in favor of the legislation at Monday night's protest.
Daniel Brenner | AnnArbor.com
The protest was intended to be peaceful, organizers said.
"We're concerned about the rushed process that this right-to-work legislation has followed," said Dave Kreisman, spokesperson for We Are Michigan, the group that organized the event. "With no public insight, with no public discourse. We thought that it being the holiday season we would come out here with the holiday spirit and sing carols. Hopefully he hears us and doesn't become the Rick that stole Christmas."
Solomon James, a stay-at-home dad from Ann Arbor, came out to give Snyder a message. He took offense that the legislation was introduced to a lame duck legislature.
"It's not the will of the people that's being done," he said.
James was raised in a union family in Oregon. His dad was a custodian at a community college.
“It was his involvement in unions that allowed our family to have a wage we could (live) on,” he said. “And they gave him retirement.”
James’ father-in-law, who worked for General Motors, was in the UAW. He doesn’t think his dad or his father-in-law would have been able to prosper had there been right-to-work legislation in place.
“You're going to have people freeloading on the system and unions won’t be able to exist,” he said.
James said he knows at least five young professionals in their late 20s and early 30s who are poised to leave Michigan if or when the legislation is passed.
“Those are not the types of people you want to be leaving,” he said.
Lora Rosenbaum, who owns an Ann Arbor yoga studio, came out to sing at the corner of Geddes Road and Valleyview Drive in Superior Township because she supported the failed Proposal 2, which would have made collective bargaining part of the state constitution.
“I knew that was a breeding ground for Michigan to become a right-to-work state,” said the mother of three children. “I’m really concerned it’s happening as quickly as it is.”
Rosenbaum’s grandfather was a steel worker in Pittsburgh and helped organize the first unions there.
“I’ve head stories from him about what it was like before unions were organized,” she said. “I heard about what it was like after. It influenced me a great deal.”
Greg Pratt, a lecturer in social work at the University of Michigan, said the legislation is divisive, just as Snyder pointed out a year ago. He said the legislation would affect him as a union member.
“My rights to bargaining would be greatly diminished in years to come,” he said. “What kind of lives will the kids coming up in my neighborhood have?”