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ACLU files lawsuit challenging Michigan right to work law

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ALCUM) [advocacy website] on Thursday filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF; press release] against the state of Michigan challenging the state's "Freedom to Work" legislation [SB 116, materials]. The ACLUM was joined by various labor unions, including the AFL-CIO [official website]. The suit claims that while the legislation was debated and passed, the public was prohibited from entering the Capitol Building through the public entrance by Michigan state police, affecting a "total denial of public access to the Capitol for over four hours." They assert that this denial of access was impermissible under the Michigan Open Meetings Act [text], the Michigan Constitution and the First Amendment of the US Constitution. They requested that the resulting legislation be invalidated and that the state be enjoined from implementing and enforcing the law.

The right-to-work law has been controversial since its passage [JURIST report] in December, over unanimous Democratic opposition. Earlier this week Michigan Governor Rick Snyder [official website] sent a letter to the Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court [official website] requesting an advisory opinion [JURIST report] on the constitutionality of the law. In addition to this lawsuit, two other lawsuits have been filed [Detroit News report] challenging the law's passage as a violation of the Open Meetings Act. JURIST guest columnist Susan Bitensky of the Michigan State University College of Law criticized [JURIST op-ed] Michigan's right to work law as a bill that will "weaken the people and families who depend upon the benefits and protections negotiated by labor unions." Measures to strengthen collective bargaining rights in Michigan have also been controversial. In September the Michigan Supreme Court ordered [JURIST report], a union-backed measure to amend the state constitution to include a right to labor unionization and collective bargaining to appear on the November ballot. The measure was ultimately defeated [AP report] 57-43 percent.

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