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State Supreme Court will decide whether "right to work" covers state workers

Nov 18, 2014

The Michigan Supreme Court will decide next year whether the state’s right-to-work law applies to unionized civil service employees.

Credit Michigan Supreme Court / court.mi.gov

Four unions representing 35,000 state civil service workers filed the challenge. They say the right-to-work law does not apply to them because of the Michigan Constitution and the independent authority it gives the civil service system.

The right-to-work law was adopted two years ago by the Legislature during a contentious “lame duck” session. It says a union cannot compel an employee to pay union dues or fees as a condition of holding a job.  It’s not known how many workers have opted out of union membership since then.

The unions say the law does not trump the independence of Michigan’s Civil Service system because that is part of the Michigan Constitution. They say union membership is a condition to be negotiated with the state Civil Service Commission. The unions lost 16 months ago at the state Court of Appeals in a split decision. The majority opinion said the law applies equally to all employers.

The right-to-work law says a union cannot compel an employee to pay dues or fees as a condition of holding a job. It does not yet apply to state employees because they work under contracts adopted before the law took effect.