It took Nixon to go to China, and now it’s taking a coalition of union members to push for right-to-work legislation in big labor’s heartland of Michigan. Our friends at The Mackinac Center’s Michigan Capitol Confidential report:

“A grassroots coalition called ‘Michigan Freedom to Work’ held a news conference June 30, 2011, at several locations around the state, including Lansing. Several union members and others gathered in the Capitol building to announce their new coalition and plans to push for legislation to add Michigan to the list of states that have enacted right-to-work laws. These laws allow workers to choose whether or not to join a union at their place of employment.”

In the video above, Michigan union members speak of their experience with Michigan unions and why they’re now pushing for right-to-work legislation. Coalition organizer and UAW member Terry Bowman explains the core belief of his organization:

The Michigan Freedom to Work coalition believes all employees should be free to join and financially support a labor union if they choose without fear of discrimination or penalty. We believe all employees should be equally free to choose not to join or financially support a union, again without fear of discrimination or penalty.

Outside the coalition’s meeting in Lansing, 100 union members, mostly from the Michigan Education Association, gathered in protest. The Detroit Free Press reports that Zack Pohl, spokesman for the counter-demonstrators, called the right-to-work push “the latest in a long line of attacks on working and middle-class families in Michigan.”

But for members of the pro-right-to-work coalition, it’s a matter of civil rights–and bringing new jobs to Michigan, which is currently suffering a 10.3 percent unemployment rate. The Free Press reports:

Tony Amorose, a history teacher in Dearborn schools and a member of the American Federation of Teachers, was part of the Freedom to Work team. He said he comes from a union family with a father who “taught us the value of a union.”

But he said economic forces have made right-to-work laws necessary.

“Michigan must respond by becoming more business-friendly,” Amorose said.

Those union members aren’t the only ones who support right-to-work in Michigan. In a poll conducted last Labor Day, “51 percent [of Michigan voters] said they supported this question: Should Michigan pass a right-to-work law that means employees cannot be forced to join a labor union?” according to a Grand Rapids Press report.

Their support isn’t surprising. Investors Business Daily reports that “Right-to-work states have generally lower unemployment, higher job growth, lower taxes and better business climates. They have growing populations and have been attracting businesses from other states.”

In Michigan, a state beholden to unions that is bleeding population and has lost more than 800,000 jobs in the past decade, right-to-work might be an answer.