Michigan labor groups file federal lawsuit against 'right-to-work' law

[JURIST] The Michigan State AFL-CIO (MIAFLCIO), the Michigan Building and Construction Trades Council [advocacy website] and other labor groups filed a lawsuit [complaint, PDF] in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan [official website] on Monday challenging the state's new "right-to-work" laws, which bar unions from forcing workers to pay dues and limit workers' rights to strike and picket. The lawsuit seeks to block enforcement [Bloomberg report] of the private sector [SB 0116 materials] portion of the anti-union legislation, claiming that it violates federal labor statutes as well as the US Constitution [materials]. The private sector law and its public sector [HB 4003 materials] counterpart were passed in a lame duck session [JURIST report] of the Michigan Legislature in December despite unanimous Democratic opposition, and the laws were quickly signed into law by Republican Governor Rick Snyder [official websites], making Michigan the twenty-fourth state to enact "right-to-work" legislation.

The Michigan legislation has been controversial since its passage. Last month the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ALCUM) [advocacy website] and various labor organizations collectively filed a similar lawsuit 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 Building 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. Also last month Snyder requested an advisory opinion [JURIST report] by the Michigan Supreme Court [official website] on the constitutionality of the laws. Earlier in January Susan Bitensky [academic profile] of the Michigan State University College of Law criticized Michigan's right to work law [JURIST op-ed] as a bill that will "weaken the people and families who depend upon the benefits and protections negotiated by labor unions." 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] by a 57-43 margin.

 

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