A news service for the people of Michigan from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

A Michigan union invoked the provision of the state constitution that bans slavery in their argument against right-to-work, court documents show.

Teamsters Local No. 214  stated Dec. 6 that right-to-work was "a violation of the prohibitions against involuntary servitude" because members of the union had to work against their will on behalf of non-union members. The union then referred to Article I, Section 9 of the state constitution, which states: "Neither slavery, nor involuntary servitude unless for the punishment of crime, shall ever be tolerated in this state." 

The claim was made in response to a lawsuit filed by four city of Dearborn employees who were going to be charged $150 by the union for any grievance they filed after they left the union when they exercised their rights under state law.

Officials from Teamsters Local No. 214 didn't respond to requests for comment.

Teamsters officials previously said it was not fair that non-dues paying members should get services of the union. However, labor unions asked for, and received, permission to exclusively represent all employees in a workplace where a union exists. A 1944 U.S. Supreme Court ruling held that when unions are granted that monopoly privilege, they must treat all employees fairly and not discriminate. In the case, Steele v. Louisville, the union was preventing black workers from holding certain positions and setting a ceiling on the amount of work they could perform. 

Antony Davies, a business professor at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, said the union's interpretation of slavery "is an insult to people who have actually been enslaved."

"Slavery is what you get when one person forces another to work against that person's will," he said. "Right-to-work laws prevent unions from forcing people to join. Without right-to-work laws, it is the unions that force workers to join against their will. If unions truly add value, then they don't need to force workers to join. Workers will join of their own free will."

This is not the first time a union in court documents has invoked slavery in a complaint about right-to-work. The International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150 filed a lawsuit in 2012 against the Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels claiming right-to-work requires "dues-paying union members to work alongside non-union personnel," which it claimed was involuntary servitude.

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See also:

Union Sues Indiana Governor; Claims Right-to-Work Enforces Slavery

Teamsters Union Backs Away From Discriminatory Practice

Is Right-to-Work Racist?

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