Michigan Governor Rick Snyder [official website] sent a letter [text, PDF] to the Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court [official website] on Monday requesting an advisory opinion on the constitutionality of the state's right to work law. Under Article 3, Section 8 of the Michigan Constitution [text], the governor can request an advisory opinion from the supreme court as to the constitutionality of legislation once it has been enacted, provided that it is prior to the effective date of the legislation. Specifically, Snyder has requested that the supreme court determine 1) whether the law is constitutional as applied to the classified state civil service, 2) if the law does not apply to classified to state civil service, whether it violates equal protection of the law, 3) whether the law violates equal protection of the law because the legislation does not apply to all employees in the public or private bargaining units, and 4) whether the law represents a change in purpose as enacted under the Michigan constitution. In his letter, Snyder noted the time sensitive nature of his request given that collective bargaining agreements with state workers expire at the end of the year.
The request by Snyder is the latest development in the ongoing battle over collective bargaining rights in Michigan. The right to work law has been controversial since its passage [JURIST report] in December, over unanimous Democratic opposition. In addition to the governor's request for an advisory opinion, two 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.