Reuters Offers Readers Heavily-Slanted Story on Right-to-Work Bill in Michigan

Reuters correspondent Andrea King Collier offered readers a heavily-slanted 27-paragraph story last evening about Michigan Republican lawmakers pushing a right-to-work bill in the state legislature. King Collier quoted only one proponent of the legislation -- Gov. Rick Snyder -- who was described as a "reluctant supporter of the measure," unlike "other Republican governors who have championed curbs on unions." Snyder sounded apologetic for the legislature's action, quoted by King Collier as saying "that issue was on the table whether I wanted it to be there or not."

By contrast, King Collier quoted three critics of the legislation: a union boss, an Obama White House spokesman, and a teacher's union member who was on hand outside the state capitol in Lansing to protest the bills under consideration. 


Aside from the 3-to-1 slant in persons quoted on the piece, King Collier's choice in language and tone was set to color the issue in a way to make union members sympathetic and right-to-work advocates less so. Indeed, right-to-work was place in scare quotes (emphasis mine):

LANSING, Michigan (Reuters) - Michigan's Republican-controlled Legislature passed separate bills on Thursday aimed at making the home of the U.S. auto industry the 24th "right-to-work" state banning mandatory union dues, igniting raucous demonstrations that led to eight arrests.

The Michigan House of Representatives voted 58-52 to approve a measure that would make payment of union dues voluntary in the private sector, after Democrats walked out in protest at the public being kept out of the Capitol.

A few hours later, the state Senate passed two "right-to-work" bills for private- and public-sector workers on 22-16 and 22-4 votes. Each measure must be sent for consideration to the other chamber before receiving final legislative approval.

Republican Governor Rick Snyder has pledged to sign the bills when they are sent to him. Snyder, who said last year that "right-to-work" legislation would be divisive for the state, said this week he now supported it.

The House has adjourned until Tuesday, the next date when it could take up the bills sent to it from the Senate and the Senate could take up the House bill under Michigan rules.

Thousands of union workers converged on the state capital, Lansing, to protest the sudden drive for the law, and officials closed the Capitol building's doors for hours, citing safety concerns.

Eight people were arrested when they tried to rush past state troopers outside Senate chambers during the demonstrations and two people were hit with mace in the commotion, State Police Inspector Gene Adamczyk said.

The protests recalled the bitter two-year fight in Wisconsin, where Republicans voted to curb the powers of public-sector unions.

The 2011 Wisconsin law sparked massive protests and an unsuccessful effort to recall Republican Governor Scott Walker.

Approval of such legislation in the union stronghold of Michigan would be a major blow to organized labor. Michigan is where the headquarters of General Motors, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler are located, and is the home of the United Auto Workers union.

[...]

Michigan would be the second state in the industrial U.S. heartland to adopt such a law, after Indiana earlier in 2012, and the 24th in the nation, although most are in the South.

"Right-to-work" laws typically allow workers to opt out of paying union dues and bar requirements that an employee must join a union to work in a certain shop.

Supporters say the laws help attract or keep businesses, while opponents say they suppress workers' wages and benefits and are aimed at undermining the financial stability of unions.

Supporters also say that right-to-work is fundamentally fair to employees because no one should be forced to join a union to work, nor to pay dues to a union of which you are not a member. It's a fundamental freedom of association issue, which should not be lost on Reuters, a business news wire.

Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd
Ken Shepherd is the Managing Editor for NewsBusters