Michigan AFL-CIO files federal lawsuit seeking to stop right-to-work law
LANSING, MI — The Michigan AFL-CIO and union partners are seeking to block the state’scontroversial new right-to-work law, arguing that it conflicts with federal labor statutes in violation of the U.S. Constitution.
Attorneys for the AFL-CIO filed a federal lawsuit today in Detroit, seeking a declaratory judgement that PA 348 of 2012 is unlawful and requesting a permanent enjoinder barring state officials from enforcing it.
The 8-count complaint alleges that Michigan’s right-to-work law violates the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution by allowing the state to levy civil and criminal penalties for behaviors regulated by the federal National Labor Relations Act and by purporting to apply to areas under federal jurisdiction, such as dock-yards and forts.
“In its haste to enact a right-to-work law, the legislature overreached and went into an area that is controlled specifically by federal law,” said AFL-CIO attorney Andy Nickelhoff, “and that violates the constitution.”
The Michigan State Building and Construction Trades Council joined the AFL-CIO in the suit, along with Change to Win, a volunteer labor federation that includes the Teamsters and SEIU.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, along with several other state officials, is named as a defendant in the complaint. His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Today’s suit is the latest in a series of challenges to Michigan’s new right-to-work law, which prohibits employers from collecting union dues a condition of employment. But this case, filed with U.S. District Court Judge Stephen J. Murphy III, is the first at the federal level.
Gov. Rick Snyder, anticipating legal challenges that he said could delay upcoming contract negotiations, last month asked the Michigan Supreme Court to issue an advisory opinion on the new law and whether it violates the state or U.S. constitution.
Days later, the ACLU of Michigan filed suit on behalf of the AFL-CIO and other unions, asking a judge to invalidate the law because it was passed and signed on the same day that state police blocked access to the Capitol during a protest that drew 12,000 people to Lansing.