The first of two bills expected to sharply curtail the power of unions in labor-friendly Michigan passed the House today, as an estimated 10,000 people flooded the Capitol area in protest. The second bill is expected to pass this afternoon.
Michigan police told NBC News that they restricted access to the Capitol because they do not want protesters to occupy the building overnight, as happened in Wisconsin when legislators considered bills restricting unions' right to collectively bargain. Public school teachers from several districts are among the protesters in Michigan.
The laws, which Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has pledged to sign, make union dues voluntary for workers who are benefiting from union negotiations over their salaries. President Barack Obama has criticized the bills, saying they give "you the right to work for less money" because unions will have less power to negotiate higher salaries.
Snyder says the bills give workers "freedom to choose whether their resources go to a union or not." He added that Indiana's right-to-work legislation attracted more jobs to the area. Michigan will become the 24th right-to-work state if Snyder signs the bills.