(TheBlaze/AP) — More than 200 activists attended a training session Saturday to prepare for an upcoming protest at the Michigan Capitol, where lawmakers are putting the final touches on legislation that would allow workers to stop paying union dues.
Between chants, cheers and applause, organizers warned those at the training to be prepared for insults and obstruction Tuesday in Lansing. The volunteers lined up on opposite sides of a long hall at UAW Local 600 in suburban Detroit and took turn turns portraying protesters and union critics.
“Humanize the situation. Be clear with your intentions. Introduce yourself,” national labor activist and longtime community agitator Lisa Fithian said through a megaphone. “They’re going to do everything they can to criminalize us.”
Republicans who control the Michigan Legislature passed legislation Thursday that would allow workers to opt out of paying union dues at businesses where employees are represented by a union. The final version is expected to win approval soon and be signed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder. Protests and possible civil disobedience are planned because the law would pose a major financial blow to organized labor.
“We are not the violent ones,” Fithian told the crowd. “What is it that the police are going to do? What is it that the governor is going to order? … We have to remember: The police are not our enemy in this fight. They’re doing a job. It’s our job to convince them that they should put their guns down and join the people.”
Fithian was also involved in training Occupy Wall Street protesters, and her tactics have been featured on TheBlaze before. Back in May, she told a gathering that they were “building a new world” and instructed them on how to mob cops in order to avoid arrest. In an expletive-filled speech, she said it didn’t “fu**ing matter” if she gets arrested. One of her most well-known protégés is anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan.
The meeting, which was attended by UAW President Bob King, lasted more than two hours, but reporters were only allowed to watch a portion.
Mark Coco, 27, a graduate student at Wayne State University, said he would protest in Lansing, having recently worked on a failed campaign to put collective bargaining rights in the state Constitution.
“This is the first time I’ve ever been involved in this. I’m trusting that it pay dividends,” Coco said in an interview. In his opinion, the legislation “is a way to divide workers, divide colleagues.”
Katie Oppenheim, the head of a union local that represents 4,500 nurses at University of Michigan Health System in Ann Arbor, said workers whose pay and benefits are negotiated by a union should pay dues.
She believes her members appreciate the fruits of collective bargaining and will keep paying. But she acknowledged “the reality that people like things for free.” Outside observers might point out that it may not be that they want the benefits for free, but that they don’t want to be forced to pay for something they don’t agree with.
The legislation has already been challenged in court by a union activist who claims the state Open Meetings Act was violated when Michigan State Police barred the doors to the Capitol on Thursday. Ari Adler, a spokesman for Republican House Speaker Jase Bolger, told the Detroit Free Press the lawsuit was “baseless and frivolous” and “more about receiving attention than getting justice.”
A hearing on the lawsuit has been scheduled for Thursday, but union activist and Highland Park school board member Robert Davis told the newspaper he would request an earlier date.
Here is video from their last protest, which was so disruptive it shut down the Capitol building:
- ‘What We Are Doing Is Building That New World Now’: Left-Wing Radical Lisa Fithian Gives ‘How-To’ Course on Disruptive Activism
- ‘Right-to-Work Has Got to Go!’: Union Activists Shut Down Michigan Capitol Building, Eight Arrested
- Calif. Teachers Union Releases Cartoon Featuring ‘the Rich’ Urinating on the Poor