Michigan appeals court rules 'right to work' applies to state employees

[JURIST] The Michigan Court of Appeals [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] Thursday that Michigan's right-to-work law [PA 349 text], applies to civil service employees. PA 349 makes it illegal for employers to require employees to pay union dues, and is viewed by its opponents as a legislative attack on organized labor. The AFL-CIO of Michigan [union website], amongst others, challenged the law [JURIST report] because it was not clear whether government employees were included in the applicable class of workers [complaint, PDF]. The majority found that the law applies to state employees and that labor issues are within the legislature's discretion:

Accordingly, we hold that, contrary to plaintiffs’ claim, it is within the authority of the Legislature to pass laws on public policy matters in general and particularly those, as here, that unquestionably implicate constitutional rights of both union and nonunion public employees. ... Michigan case law fully supports the principle that the Legislature as the policymaking branch of government, has the power to pass labor laws of general applicability that also apply to classified civil service employees. For these reasons, we hold that 2012 PA 349 is constitutional as applied to classified civil service positions in Michigan.
The AFL-CIO has not yet indicated if it will appeal or lobby to overturn the law.

The Michigan legislation has been controversial since its passage in December. In January the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ALCUM) [advocacy website] and various labor organizations collectively filed similar lawsuits in state court against both the private and public sector laws, claiming that while the legislation was debated and passed, the public was prohibited from entering the Capitol through the public entrance by Michigan state police, affecting a "total denial of public access to the Capitol for over four hours" in contravention of the Michigan Open Meetings Act [text], the Michigan Constitution [materials] and the First Amendment [Cornell LII backgrounder] of the US Constitution. Previously, the governor requested an advisory opinion [JURIST report] from the Michigan Supreme Court [official website], following its September order [JURIST report] that a collective bargaining initiative appear in a constitutional referendum.

 

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