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Michigan right-to-work-case reaches state Supreme Court

Michigan's Supreme Court recently heard a case involving workers' rights and is expected to render its decision by the end of July. The case involves employment problems related to the right-to-work law for the state and its application to state employees who are part of unions. A law passed in 2012 indicates that union fee payment cannot be required as a condition for employment. A separate law was also passed with regard to private employment.

The conflict that has arisen involves separate portions of the state constitution, which address the abilities of different state entities in regulating employment. One portion assigns the regulation of conditions of employment at the state level to the Civil Service Commission. The other allows the Legislature to enact laws related to such conditions. An additional issue in the case involves the question of whether collective bargaining is classified as a condition for employment.

Four workers' unions are involved in the suit, arguing that the legislative body cannot regulate classified employment. Their lawyer also notes that when conflicts exist, a more specific provision takes precedent over a general provision. However, one of the justices noted that the Legislature is given the power to put laws into action, potentially limiting the authority of the Civil Service Commission. Four of the state's employee unions were represented in the suit.

A worker seeking employment might face concerns over mandated union fees. In dealing with adverse consequences imposed because of refusal to pay union fees, an employee might use the state's right-to-work law to support their case. The Supreme Court decision later in the year could provide important clarification for those dealing with such concerns.

Source: ABC News, "Michigan Supreme Court Hears Major Right-to-Work Case," David Eggert, Jan. 13, 2015

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