UPDATE 1-Protesters march on Michigan capitol over 'right-to-work' vote
* Michigan would become 24th "right-to-work" state
* Republican-controlled legislature expected to pass measures
* Up to 10,000 expected to protest
LANSING, Mich., Dec 11 (Reuters) - Workers from throughout Michigan and the U.S. Midwest crowded into the Michigan Capitol and marched outside in freezing temperatures on Tuesday to protest likely passage of a "right-to-work" law restricting unions in a stronghold of organized labor.
Protesters lined the railings of the inner rotunda of the Capitol in Lansing, hours before the Republican-controlled Michigan House of Representatives was scheduled to consider proposed laws that would strike a heavy blow against unions by prohibiting them from compelling workers to be members and pay dues.
The pro-union forces chanted "Hey hey, ho ho, right-to-work has got to go," and "What's disgusting, union busting," inside the building where capital police had arrested eight protesters last Thursday when Republicans gave preliminary approval to the laws.
Outside, where a nearby bank sign showed the temperature at 25 degrees Fahrenheit (-4 Celsius), four inflatable rats dubbed the "Rat Pack" depicted Republican Governor Rick Snyder and the party leaders who have led the right-to-work effort.
A man dressed as Santa Claus stood on the Capitol steps holding a sign saying that Republicans had stolen Christmas.
Organizers said as many as 10,000 union members were expected to take part Tuesday in a show of force that recalled rallies in Wisconsin two years ago when Republicans voted to curb public sector unions.
The Republican-controlled Michigan House of Representatives will consider two and perhaps three bills on Tuesday that would cover private and public sector unions except for fire and police. Snyder has pledged to sign the bills.
The right-to-work movement has been growing in the country since Wisconsin's battle with unions over the collective bargaining powers of public sector unions such as teachers.
Michigan would become the 24th state to enact right-to-work provisions. Passage of the legislation would be a stunning blow to the power of organized labor in the United States.
Michigan is home of the heavily unionized U.S. auto industry, with some 700 manufacturing plants in the state. It is also the birthplace of the United Auto Workers, the richest U.S. labor union. Michigan has the fifth highest percentage of unionized workers in the United States at 17.5 percent.
While new Michigan laws would not be expected to have much immediate impact because existing union contracts would be preserved, they could eventually weaken the UAW, which has already seen its influence wane in negotiating with the major automakers.
Right-to-work laws typically allow workers to hold a job without being forced to join a union or pay union dues.
President Barack Obama waded into the debate during a visit to the Daimler Detroit Diesel plant in Redford, Michigan, on Monday, criticizing the Republican right-to-work effort.
"What they're really talking about is giving you the right to work for less money," Obama said.
School teachers were among those expected to march on the Capitol on Tuesday. Several school districts will not hold classes on Tuesday due to teacher and staff absences, Detroit newspapers and television stations reported.
"We support people exercising their constitutional rights to protest," said Inspector Gene Adamczyk of the Michigan State Police. "But we need them to do it in an orderly manner."
Labor leaders such as UAW President Bob King say they were blindsided by Republican Governor Rick Snyder, who last Thursday announced he was supporting right-to-work after nearly two years of saying the issue was too divisive.
King was unsuccessful in more than a week of talks with Snyder and his staff in staving off the right-to-work push by the Republicans, who will lose several seats when newly elected members take their seats in the Michigan House and Senate in January.
Detroit area is headquarters for General Motors Co, Ford Motor Co and Chrysler, which is majority owned by Fiat SpA.