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Governor Rick Snyder announced that he will sign legislation that will make Michigan the 24th “Right to Work” state.

The bill will end mandatory deduction of union dues from employee paychecks, draining workers of the political capital that has enabled unions to act as a counterweight to big business over the last century.

Only 17.5 percent of Michigan’s workers are unionized but a large percentage of those workers are employed in the auto industry.

“Workers should have freedom to choose who they associate with,” Snyder said Thursday in a press conference at the Romney building, which is named after former governor George Romney, the father of recently defeated presidential candidate Mitt Romney.

The younger Romney vehemently supported “right to work” legislation.

One of the most underreported aspects of Romney’s famed “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt” stand was that the former Bain Capital CEO saw the collapse of the auto industry as a chance to break the auto unions. His main critique of the rescue was that unions benefited too much, though the United Auto Workers gave up benefits and took wage cuts in the restructuring of General Motors and Chrysler. If you want to know what the auto industry would look like now if Mitt Romney had been president, look at the company Romney family is invested in—Delphi Motors, which is moving production to China.

President Obama defeated Romney in Michigan by 9.5 percent, despite it being Romney’s birth state.

Democrats picked up five seats in Michigan’s House in the November election but Republicans in the state kept their majority thanks to gerrymandering. With only 4,000 more votes, the State House would be tied up in 2013.

By passing the bill in the lame duck session, state Republicans are hoping to deprive unions of any hope of making the 2014 electorate look anything like 2012.

Calling it a “workplace fairness and equity” bill, Synder, the former CEO of Gateway Computers, shied away from both the “right to work” euphemism that anti-union forces across the country use and the “freedom to work” slogan that’s being used by groups associated with the Koch brothers’ Americans for Prosperity.

But the governor who ran as moderate “nerd” did tie the bill to “the freedom to associate” in a video he released, explaining why he suddenly decided to pick up the issue that he long said wasn’t on his agenda.

“Freedom to associate” is a staple of libertarian rhetoric.

However, workers who benefit from a union’s efforts without contributing to its function should probably be called “freeloaders,” say progressive activists and academics.

“The term ‘right to work’ means, in its elongated form, the right to work in a unionized setting, and reap the benefits of collective representation, without having to contribute toward the cost of obtaining those benefits,” writes University of Michigan researcher Roland Zullo.

Unions and progressive activists have been protesting outside the Capitol all week. Today they were denied entry to the Capitol building.

Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer said that Michigan’s Republicans have “declared war on the middle class.”

According to the AFL-CIO, employees in “right to work” states earn on average $1,500 year less than workers in states where unions are allowed to collect mandatory benefits.

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