THE SUPREME COURT HEARS CASE BETWEEN MAGE AND THE STATE OVER DENIED RAISES
The Supreme Court hears case between MAGE and the State over denied Raises
The Michigan Supreme Court (MSC) heard oral arguments in case No. 147511 brought against the state by MAGE. On Wednesday, May 4, 2016 the Supreme Court Justices asked whether their action upon a breach of contract claim brought against the state could infringe on the constitutional authority given to the Michigan Civil Service Commission (MCSC).
MAGE sued the Office of the State Employer (OSE) for breach of contract after the OSE recommended the MCSC grant no salary increase for MAGE employees in 2011. The MCSC adopted the recommendation.
The problem, according to MAGE, is that it jointly agreed with the OSE to recommend salary increases of 0 percent, 1 percent and 3 percent for 2009, 2010 and 2011. The agreed-upon raises were made in 2009 and 2010, but OSE deviated in 2011 and recommended no increase.
MAGE is seeking damages equivalent to those proposed 3 percent raises, either the raises themselves or the value of the health insurance concessions that MAGE gave up in its agreement with OSE, said MAGE legal counsel Brandon Zuk.
Zuk said he didn't have an estimate as to what the damages are worth to the affected state employees, as no trial has been held yet regarding the damages. MAGE has been successful in its legal path so far. The Court of Claims rebuffed the OSE's motion for summary disposition, and the state Court of Appeals affirmed that decision.
The state's appeal brought the case to the MSC today, which asked the parties to address if MAGE's claim can even be addressed in the Court of Claims, given that the MCSC has constitutional authority to set rates of compensation. Also at issue is that the relief that MAGE seeks is not available unless the MCSC reconsiders its decision.
A few justices, including Chief Justice Bob Young, grilled Mr. Zuk on whether MAGE was asking the court to overstep its boundaries and interfere with the MCSC's constitutional authority to set compensation.
One of Zuk's counters was that the court could look at the "likelihood" of what the MCSC would've done if OSE had complied with its agreement with MAGE… namely, to recommend that MCSC adopt the 3 percent raises.
Justice Richard BERNSTEIN asked both the state, represented by Solicitor General Aaron Lindstrom in court today, and Mr. Zuk about the potential ramifications this case could have for the MCSC down the road.
The OSE is being represented by the Attorney General's office, but the MCSC turned in its own amicus brief submitted by an assistant attorney general that supported OSE's position.
Pictured below at the Michigan Supreme Court are (L-R): Peter Neu, MAGE Rep & Counsel, John DeTizio, Labor Relations Director, Alan Quattrin, MAGE President and Brandon Zuk, MAGE Legal Counsel