Michigan legislators approved a bill Tuesday that curbs unions’ abilities to collect fees from nonunion workers, as protesters gathered and were arrested at the state Senate.

State Republicans pushed the law through before their majority shrinks in January, when Democrats will gain five House seats.

The legislation, which before Michigan’s passage existed in some form in 23 states, makes it illegal for workers to be required to pay union dues as a condition of employment. Opponents say it can lead to a “free rider” problem, in which workers who do not pay union fees still enjoy the benefits of collective bargaining funded by other members. Democrats recognize the law as an attempt to sap the power of unions and diminish their influence.

Unions say that wages in right-to-work states are lower than in those without such regulations. The left-leaning Economic Policy Institute supports that claim, finding in February 2011 that wages in states that carry the law are on average 3.2 percent lower than in those without it.

Michigan lawmakers are also weighing a right-to-work bill that focuses on private sector workers.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

The Guardian:

The Teamsters union, which helped host the training sessions at the weekend, said hundreds of people are “ready to get arrested” in the push against right-to-work legislation.

Union officials said the mass demonstration outside the capitol would be accompanied by flash mobs, rallies and news conferences throughout the day.

Barack Obama, who reiterated his opposition to right-to-work laws on Thursday, was due in Michigan on Monday as he presses his case for fiscal cliff negotiations to result in tax hikes for the wealthiest Americans. It is not known if Obama will discuss Michigan’s right-to-work status, but last week White House spokesman Matt Lehrich said the president “continues to oppose” the law.

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