RTW Legislation Applies to State Employees
You will see that the bargaining units argued that only the Civil Service Commission has plenary authority over pay, benefits and working conditions of state employees, but the court ruled against us.
Many of you are wondering how this affects MAGE members and other NEREs. It does not affect us directly, because MAGE membership has always been strictly voluntary.
It does, however affect us indirectly in many ways. Weaker rank and file unions does not bode well for state employees...including us. Fewer members translates into less political clout...which translates into less pay...and translates into less power to protect the benefits which we have fought so hard to preserve. I fear we reside on the precipice of a very slippery slope...our whole middle class is on a race to the bottom...and I fear we are winning.
We will keep members updated during these difficult times.
Alan Quattrin, MAGE President
RTW Can Be Applied To State Workers, Appeals Panel Says
Michigan's Legislature has the constitutional authority to apply right-to-work rules to state workers, a divided panel of the Court of Appeals held on Thursday.
The decision rejected the argument of the plaintiffs, which were state worker unions, that only the Civil Service Commission could constitutionally impose RTW standards on classified state workers.
The dissenting opinion said the law unconstitutionally infringes on the constitutional powers of the Civil Service Commission to set all conditions of employment for classified workers.
The decision, in UAW v. Green (COA docket No. 314781), is the initial court decision in the matter since the Legislature, in enacting the right-to-work laws in December, directed that litigation challenging the laws would originate in the Court of Appeals. The primary defendants in the case are, or were when the case was filed, members of the Michigan Employment Relations Commission.
Conservative groups and Attorney General Bill Schuette praised the decision reached by Judge Henry Saad and Judge Pat Donofrio. But UAW President Bob King, in a statement, called the decision "purely political" and not in the best interest of the state's workers. And one Lansing labor official, who did not want to be identified, said the ruling came as a shock.
The UAW statement also said the group was assessing all options, including an appeal to the Supreme Court.
It also was the second consecutive day the Court of Appeals issued a ruling having a dramatic effect on state workers. On Wednesday, another panel of the court ruled a statute requiring state workers to contribute into their pension system was unconstitutional.
The decision also came after negotiations between the unions and the state on the next contract for classified workers got underway.
Under right-to-work, an employee in a company or government that has a union contract does not have to join the union, or pay a fee to the union (if he or she does not join) that would roughly be the equivalent of union dues. However, those workers would still be covered by the benefits and agreements the union may make.
Opponents of the law have argued those provisions are unfair and unconstitutional, as individuals would get the benefits of union membership without paying for those benefits. Supporters of right-to-work have argued it is unconstitutional to require someone effectively as a condition of employment to either join a union or be compelled to support it. Plus, right-to-work supporters have argued, the law will make unions work harder to win over new members.
Mr. Saad wrote the decision, and in some ways the decision covered some of the same historic ground that the decision issued Wednesday, Michigan Coalition of State Employee Unions v. Michigan, trod in terms of the development and constitutional institutionalizing of the Civil Service Commission.
Mr. Saad wrote that while the commission is constitutionally authorized, it does not elevate it to the level of a fourth branch of government. And, the law in question, PA 349, 2012, is a "proper exercise of the Legislature's constitutional authority" to enact laws relative to the condition of employment. "Our holding is compelled by a plain reading of our Constitution, and an interpretation which reasonable minds and the great mass of people would give it," Mr. Saad said. While the Constitution does not give authority to the Legislature to enact laws regulating the resolution of disputes with classified state workers, it does give the Legislature the power to enact laws that regulate employment conditions for all workers.
Therefore, the Civil Service Commission's "power to issue rules governing civil service employment is not limitless in scope, but subject to and in accordance with the Legislature's power to 'enact laws' regarding 'conditions of employment,'" Mr. Saad said.
Mr. Saad also said there has been considerable dispute at all levels of government on the constitutional authority to allow or require government employees to pay for a union that may support issues politically that the employees do not agree with, or whether workers should be allowed a "free ride" by getting benefits without paying.
By enacting right-to-work, Mr. Saad said, Michigan has decided to "leave the fray." And that can work to the unions' favor, he said, since all contributions to its coffers will be voluntary.
"The government as employer may no longer require public employees to pay money to unions, its politics or ideological causes the employees oppose, and, at the same time, unions will no longer have to be wary of potential challenges to their financial contributions and may spend voluntary member dues as they see fit, without government oversight."
In her dissent, Judge Elizabeth Gleicher, who was part of the decision ruling for the Civil Service Commission on Wednesday, argued the majority decision ignores the language of the Constitution which gives the commission authority over all conditions of employment affecting classified workers.
"In my view, the majority misapprehends the Legislature's constitutional role, disregards the plain language of (the Constitution), and ignores basic separation-of-powers principles," she wrote.
And she said the Legislature lacked the power to advance a "political agenda" by ignoring the authority granted the commission in the Constitution.
Mr. Saad responded to the dissent, saying the decision does not devalue the commission but recognizes that both the commission and the Legislature have authority over state employees.
In a statement, Mr. Schuette praised the court decision, saying it was a victory for the "hard working" men and women in the state, and assures that public employees will have the same rights as workers in private industry will have under right-to-work.