Michigan Teachers Join Union Protests, Thousands of Students Forced To Miss School
Thousands of Michigan teachers skipped school Tuesday to protest new right-to-work laws that were signed by Gov. Rick Snyder. About 12,500 attended the protest and three were arrested according to the Detroit Free Press.
The walkout caused schools around the state to close, reported Michigan Capitol Confidential, affecting thousands of students.
"We're concerned about the safety and security of the students, so we're treating it as a snow day," Warren School District spokesman Robert Freehan said Monday afternoon.
right-to-work laws, which apply for both private and public sector workers, make it illegal to require workers to either join a union or pay union dues. The law was approved by a 58-51 vote in the state's Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
The passing of the legislature makes Michigan the 24th state in the country with such laws on the books.
In the eyes of the protesters, the laws will result in unions having less support to fight for their members. Such a view has been embraced by President Obama, who came out against the law Monday during a tour of the Daimler Detroit Diesel plant in Redford, Mich.
The prospect of weaker unions led many teachers to come out to the protests as they saw their livelihood at stake.
"My dad and mom were union workers. Without the contracts they bargained for, we wouldn't have had food on our table or clothes to wear," Melissa Ann Waters told the Detroit Free Press.
But some school board members in the affected districts were upset by the teachers' decision to skip work.
"I think that political agendas shouldn't take precedence over student learning," Ben Lazarus, a school board member-elect for Warren Consolidated, told Michigan Capitol Confidential.
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Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.
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