By Victor Skinner
LANSING, Mich. – Michigan’s Big Labor leaders are grasping at straws.
Facing the impending loss of members, revenue and political muscle because of the state’s new right-to-work laws, the ACLU and Michigan union bosses are suing the state, alleging the Michigan State Police’s decision to close the Capitol for capacity reasons violated open meetings laws, The Detroit News reports.
“The closure of the entrance to the Capitol when the Legislature was in session is believed to be unprecedented,” the lawsuit says, according to the News. “It violated the Open Meetings Act, the Michigan Constitution, the First Amendment, and the bedrock principles of popular sovereignty on which our country was founded.”
The lawsuit cites four hours on Dec. 6 in which state police closed the Capitol because of capacity concerns as lawmakers reviewed the right-to-work legislation as it was introduced. The unions contend the temporary closure means the laws should be invalidated.
The Michigan Education Association and its president Steven Cook are listed as plaintiffs in the case, which MEA spokesman Doug Pratt said amends a complaint the teachers union filed in December in an attempt to force open the Capitol.
In a recent memo to MEA members, Cook downplayed the likelihood that a legal challenge will succeed in overturning the right-to-work law.
“The long and the short of it is, the litigation angle should not be relied on to overturn the Act,” Cook wrote.
Since a long-shot lawsuit is the unions’ only viable option right now, Big Labor is going all-in.
Others listed as plaintiffs include the AFL-CIO, and the Michigan Building & Construction Trades Council, as well as state Democratic lawmakers Sen. Rebekah Warren, Rep. Rashida Tlaib, and Rep. Brandon Dillon, the Detroit News reports.
“The state of Michigan, House of Representatives, state Senate, Michigan State Police, Captain Kevin McGaffigan and ‘unknown public officials’ are named as defendants in the lawsuit filed in 30th Judicial Circuit Court. The case has been assigned to Judge William Collette,” according to the newspaper.
Collette has previously ruled the state police acted within their authority, the Lansing State Journal reports.
We think Michigan Freedom Fund President Greg McNeilly got it right when he told the News that the Big Labor lawsuit is simply “saber rattling” to “keep the issue alive.”
“It’s a junk lawsuit,” he told the paper. “There was more public engagement on those two bills than potentially any bill since the (1961-62) constitutional convention.”
“Same song, second verse, oughta get better, but it’s gonna get worse. We’ve heard this all before, and the court flatly rejected this same argument in December,” Joy Yearout, spokeswoman for the attorney general, told the Lansing State Journal.
While Big Labor bosses are looking for any silly infraction to kill the new laws, Gov. Rick Snyder has already requested the Michigan Supreme Court review the substance of the legislation to ensure it is constitutionally sound. We assume that’s to preempt the unions’ next course of action.
Snyder asked the court to determine if the law applies to all unionized state workers “because of the Michigan Civil Service Commission’s autonomy to negotiate wages, benefits and working conditions with labor unions,” the News reports.
“Snyder also asked the court to consider whether the private and public sector right-to-work laws violate the 14th Amendment equal protection clause of the United States Constitution” since it doesn’t apply to all employees in all bargaining units.
That’s a smart move because Wisconsin’s teachers union was able to temporarily halt that state’s collective bargaining reforms using the 14th Amendment argument. The state prevailed in one of two lawsuits on the issue, but the second is still pending.