Michigan Ban on Forced Union Dues Challenged in Lawsuit

Michigan’s new so-called right-to-work law, which bars unions from forcing workers to pay dues, violates the U.S. Constitution and federal labor statutes, the Michigan AFL-CIO said in a lawsuit.

The law interferes with the rights of workers and Michigan officials should be barred from enforcing it, the union said in the complaint filed today in federal court in Detroit. The Michigan AFL-CIO was joined in the lawsuit by the Michigan State Building and Construction Trades Council and Change to Win, an advocacy group.

The new Michigan law will subject unions and their members in the state to “substantive and remedial regulations that supplant or conflict with” federal labor laws, the AFL-CIO said in its lawsuit. The union asked the court to find that federal labor law pre-empts the new Michigan statute.

The right-to-work law was passed by the Republican-controlled Michigan Legislature and signed by Governor Rick Snyder in December. Under the new law, an individual can’t be forced, as a condition of employment, to become or remain a member of a union, or pay any dues or other fees to a labor organization.

Stop Enforcement

The AFL-CIO sued the state’s attorney general and other Michigan officials, including members of the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, seeking to stop enforcement of the law.

Snyder, a Republican along with state Attorney General Bill Schuette, has asked the Michigan Supreme Court to rule on whether the right-to-work law can be applied to the state’s civil service employees.

“The law is constitutional and we will defend it aggressively,” Joy Yearout, spokeswoman for Schuette, said in a phone interview. “We hope the Supreme Court will take up the governor’s request for an advisory opinion and resolve some of these questions.”

The law has also been challenged in state court by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, the Michigan Education Association and the United Auto Workers, who contend the legislature violated the Michigan Open Meetings Act when passing the bill. The lawsuit claims Michigan citizens were locked out of the capitol while the bill was being considered.

The lawsuit is Michigan State AFL-CIO v. Callahan, 12-cv-10557, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Michigan (Detroit).

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