13,000 Rally to Protect Rights of Michigan Workers and Families
By Sonia Santana, Regional Field Manager Planned Parenthood Action Fund
Thousands of people gathered on the worn-down lawn of the Michigan statehouse on one of the coldest days of the year to send a message that out-of-touch lawmakers should back down from their attacks on working families and women’s access to reproductive health care services. No matter how state legislators try and spin it, the intent of the proposed legislation is a clear effort to put politics before the rights and health of women and families in Michigan. By passing Right to Work and moving forward on the harmful package of anti-women bills during the final days of the legislative session, it became apparent that lawmakers were willing to do anything to advance their own agenda, even if that’s not what voters want.
Yesterday, on the day both of these bills were expected to be brought to the floor, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan and workers’ rights supporters showed up as early as 5 a.m. to prepare for a rally that began at 8 a.m. Although the lawn and statehouse steps had been booked by the conservative group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) for the rest of the year, nearly 13,000 Michiganders descended upon the lawn to make their voices heard. The message was clear, if these bills passed into law there would be electoral consequences. The bitter cold did not keep people quiet, speeches and chants could be heard throughout downtown Lansing and the 2,500 people who made it into the statehouse stayed there to report out and hold legislators accountable.
While lawmakers only brought the Right to Work legislation to the floor, which was passed by the House and sent to the governor midway through the day, the protests continued across the street in front of the George W. Romney building. The pressure increased among the attendees as a dozen Mounties and over 30 state police officers blocked the entrance and stood guard with tear gas at the ready. However, the solidarity among the crowd was evident during the final rally at 4 p.m. where community stakeholders, union leaders, and the board chair of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Michigan addressed the crowd and spoke of the commitment to support one another in these fights and to stand strong against these attacks on the middle class.
Although, the Right to Work bill was rushed to the governor’s desk and signed within two hours and anti-women health bills could continue being pushed as early as today, the message was clear the actions of Michigan lawmakers would not go unanswered.