Michigan Supreme Court Upholds Right-to-Work for State Employees

Accepting Mackinac Center Legal Foundation argument, justices decide 4 to 3 that Michigan Constitution prohibits agency fees for state workers

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

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Public sector workers may freely exercise right-to-work under a ruling passed down today by the Michigan Supreme Court. The International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW) challenged Gov. Rick Snyder, Attorney General Bill Schuette and members of the Michigan Employment Relations Commission on the constitutionality of Public Act 349 of 2012 (right-to-work).

The UAW argued that PA 349 was unconstitutional regarding workers classified as civil service employees and that the Civil Service Commission has the authority to compel civil service workers to pay an agency fee to the union or risk being fired.

Justices Viviano, Markman, Young and Zahra ruled that while the Civil Service Commission has control of salary, benefits, grievance procedures and employment conditions, it does not have the authority to require involuntary payments to the union. Adopting an argument provided by the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, the majority held that agency fees were akin to a tax on public employees and that the Michigan Civil Service Commission lacked the power to tax.

Justices Bernstein, Kelly and McCormack disagreed with the majority, saying that the Civil Service Commission’s authority includes the ability to force union payments from employees.

“This was an attempt by the UAW to take away the rights of certain workers and force union payments from them, going directly against Michigan law,” said Patrick Wright, vice president for legal affairs at the Mackinac Center. “The majority correctly noted that state employees unions have illegally been receiving agency fees from state employees for decades. 2012 PA 349 was not necessary to end this practice; agency fees for state employees have been illegal since the adoption of the 1963 Constitution. ”

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