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Michigan House approves "right-to-work" bill to weaken unions

LANSING, Michigan (Reuters) - The Michigan House on Thursday voted to approve a "right-to-work" bill that would weaken labor union powers after Democratic representatives left the chambers in protest at the decision earlier to lock the state Capitol doors.

The House voted 58 to 52 to approve a bill that would make Michigan, the home of the U.S. auto industry, the 24th right-to-work state. A previously introduced bill was used to press the measure to the floor for debate on Thursday afternoon.

Michigan Republicans opened the drive Thursday to pass a right-to-work law that would apply to private and public sector unions except those for police and fire departments, setting off a confrontation with organized labor that immediately led to the arrest of protesters.

Right to work laws usually make the payment of union dues voluntary, even if the person is employed at a unionized workplace. Michigan has the fifth highest percentage of unionized workers among states, according to government figures.

(Reporting by Andrea King Collier in Lansing and David Bailey in Minneapolis; Editing by Greg McCune)