(Reuters) As a trained aerospace engineer, Patrick Colbeck applied his penchant for data analysis and “systematic approach” to his new job in early 2011: a Michigan state senator, recently elected and keen to create jobs in the faded industrial powerhouse.

Those skills paid off handsomely for the first-term Republican this week as Governor Rick Snyder signed into law bills co-sponsored by Colbeck that ban mandatory union membership, making Michigan the nation’s 24th right-to-work state.

From outside Michigan Republican circles, it appeared that the Republican drive to weaken unions came out of the blue – proposed, passed and signed in a mere six days.

But the transformation had been in the making since March 2011 when Colbeck and a fellow freshman, state Representative Mike Shirkey, first seriously considered legislation to ban mandatory collection of union dues as a condition of employment in Michigan.

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