By Nova Safo, CNN
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(CNN) – Michigan is now a right-to-work state, after Governor Rick Snyder signed the controversial measure into law yesterday. The law limits the ability of unions to collect fees from their members. Unions see the law as a direct threat to their ability to raise funds, organize, and have political clout.
In response to the bill signing, unions held silent protests in multiple cities throughout Michigan today, continuing what is likely to be a long-term battle. And they unleashed vocal anger on Tuesday in a massive protest at the Michigan State Capitol.
[4:41 ] “All that are speaking out here at the capitol, and all over the state… For them this is the beginning of the 2014 election cycle,” said Mark Schauer, a representative with Laborers-Employers Cooperation & Education Trust.
The Midwest region has long been a union bastion, but unions are now being challenged. In Wisconsin this past March, a new law ended collective bargaining for most public workers. The right-to-work law in Michigan, similar to the one Indiana enacted in February, is even more sweeping because it applies to both public and private workers.
Kenneth Dau-Schmidt, a professor of labor and employment law at Indiana University, said it’s too soon to tell what impact the new laws will have. But he pointed to research that show strong unions can raise wages for all workers.
“The explanation for this is that if you’re in a state that has union contracts, other employers, even if they’re not union, have to compete with that and they have to provide better wages and benefits in order to get good workers,” Dau-Schmidt said.
Michigan’s unions now face a test of their diminished political muscle, whether they can make lawmakers pay a price for supporting the right-to-work law.