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Union workers fill the entire of the Capitol rotunda in Lansing, Mich., Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. Hundreds of chanting and cheering protesters streamed back into the Michigan Capitol after receiving a court order saying that the building must reopen. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) Union workers fill the entire of the Capitol rotunda in Lansing, Mich., Thursday, Dec. 6, 2012. Hundreds of chanting and cheering protesters streamed back into the Michigan Capitol after receiving a court order saying that the building must reopen. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)  

White House declines to condemn union violence in Michigan

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Neil Munro
White House Correspondent

White House spokesman Jay Carney declined to condemn the increasing violence and threats by union members in Michigan, merely telling reporters Tuesday that “the president believes in debate that’s civil.”

When asked by a reporter about a claim by Michigan state Democrat that “there will be blood” should Republicans pass a union-choice law in Michigan, Carney professed ignorance and then downplayed the comment.

“I haven’t see those comments, and I’m not sure they mean what someone interprets them to mean,” he said.

The union violence, which included at least one televised assault on a journalist, followed an Obama rally in Michigan Dec. 10, when he declared that right-to-work laws are a political effort to slash wages.

“These so-called ‘right to work’ laws, they don’t have to do with economics; they have everything to do with politics,” Obama told workers at an auto factory in Redford, Mich. “What they’re really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money,” he said.

Obama also suggested that the new law, which gives workers the choice to opt out of unions in their workplace, is designed to provoke conflict for Republican gain.

“We’ve got to get past this whole situation where we manufacture crises because of politics … [that] leads to less certainty, more conflict, and we can’t all focus on coming together to grow,” Obama claimed.

Most Democrats oppose right-to-work laws because they tend to reduce the flow of workers’ monthly dues to unions. That financial cut weakens union leaders’ ability to shape elections and lobby against changes.

Obama’s Dec. 10 speech did not call for civil debate, or non-violence. (RELATED: Union protester assaults conservative Steven Crowder)

Obama has usually kept his distance from state-level conflicts.

He played little role in 2011 labor-relations battles in Wisconsin and Ohio, and kept a low profile in the October 2012 teacher’s strike in Chicago.

During the teachers’ strike, he called for a negotiated settlement between Democrats in the state government and in the teachers’ union. He called for negotiations, Carney said, because “it was in the interests of the children.”

However, Carney then choose to shift the subject from Michigan’s labor dispute by calling on other reports for questions.

“Let me move around,” he said.

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