The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, September 06, 2013

Unions pledge to appeal right-to-work ruling for public workers

By The Building Tradesman

The UAW notified its members late last month that it would appeal an Aug. 15 appeals court ruling which found that Michigan’s right-to-work law does apply to about 30,000 state employees.

The Court of Appeals panel ruled 2-1 that the state Legislature, not the Michigan Civil Service Commission, is the ultimate authority to handle all matters regarding state employment contracts. Labor lawyers thought public unions had a strong case to get out from under the yoke of the new right-to-work law, since the Civil Service Commission, not the legislature, has historically been solely responsible for bargaining with state employees.

As we reported in our last issue, the majority opinions were made by Judges Henry William Saad and Pat Donofrio, both appointees of Republican governors. They ruled the four-member Civil Service Commission is “unaccountable” in their ability to “strip this power away from the people,” and eliminating the people's “collective voice on a matter of constitutional importance.” Judge Elizabeth Gleicher, the lone dissenting opinion and appointed by a Democrat, said the majority's ruling “strips the Civil Service Commission of its regulatory supremacy.”

UAW Local 6000 has about 17,000 members and is the largest union representing state employees.
UAW Vice President Cindy Estrada said in an e-mail that the right-to-work law is part of a larger effort to weaken unions. “Then there will be no organized opposition when they come after state employees’ wages, health care and pensions,” Estrada said.

Ken Moore, president of the Michigan State Employees Association issued a statement that said claiming RTW applies to all state employees in the Civil Service is “clearly unconstitutional.”

“In 1940, citizens were so fed up with the abuses in state government that they voted to adopt a constitutional amendment creating a Civil Service Commission,” Moore told MIRS News Service. “The Commission is charged with regulating all conditions of employment in the state civil service.  We're confident that the state civil service system of checks and balances will be upheld and that this ruling will not stand on appeal.”

The ruling does not affect RTW’s impact on private sector unions like the building trades.