The end of March marked the one year anniversary of Michigan's right-to-work law. Among other things, the measure prohibited the practice of making employment contingent on payment of union dues. Critics of the law say it is reducing the power of workers and allows those who opt out of paying dues to benefit from collective bargaining even without financially contributing to the union. Supporters say the law is good for business and protects workers' freedom. Michigan was the 24th state to enact a right-to-work law.
As Michigan's right-to-work law turned one, it hit another important milestone: surviving a major lawsuit. However, while the judge in the case upheld key aspects of the law, he also ruled that the state will still have to defend other provisions of the law. If these provisions are ultimately struck down, it remains to be seen whether the rest of the law will be allowed to stand.
Union dues regulation to remain intact, but parts of law appear to violate federal law
A ruling in the lawsuit was issued by a U.S. District Court judge on March 31. The suit was filed by the Michigan State AFL-CIO, along with other labor groups. The plaintiffs claimed that the right-to-work law actually interferes with workers' rights and that portions of the law are preempted by federal legislation. They sought to prevent state officials from enforcing the right-to-work law.
The judge threw out portions of the lawsuit, including a challenge to the part of the right-to-work law concerning union dues payment. But, he also indicated that other parts of the right-to-work law do appear to overstep the boundaries of the state's authority under federal law, and allowed the remainder of the lawsuit challenging these parts to continue. In total, three out of eight claims in the lawsuit were dismissed.
A spokeswoman for the Michigan Attorney General hailed the ruling as a victory for supporters of the right-to-work law, as did the National Right to Work Foundation, pointing to the dismissal of challenges to what they considered the "core provisions" of the law. Yet, some of the claims in the lawsuit are moving forward, and if significant portions of the right-to-work law are found to violate federal law, the entire thing could be struck down.
An experienced Michigan labor law attorney can help your union with any legal issue
The outcome of the challenge to the right-to-work law is one of the hottest current issues in Michigan employment law. But, if you are involved in any type of labor union dispute, the outcome of your own case could have a greater direct impact on your personal circumstances.
Contact an experienced Michigan employment law attorney if your labor union is having legal problems. Retaining the right lawyer is one of the best ways to help your union achieve its goals.