On the Case: Right-to-Work

Legal Corner

Michigan has seen a number of positive legislative developments in labor recently. Not surprisingly, the leaders of Michigan’s historically powerful labor unions are displeased with some of these developments and are doing all that they can to undermine them. Monitoring and challenging these labor efforts have been our primary focus at the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation recently; it is an exciting and fulfilling task.

The passage of Michigan’s right-to-work law made headlines locally, nationally and internationally. Labor recognizes the symbolic importance of Michigan, which has long been considered a union stronghold, and its lawyers have sought to weaken and challenge right-to-work at every opportunity. Senior Attorney Derk Wilcox and I have been monitoring these challenges to see where we may have opportunities to either defend right-to-work or broaden its impact.

Because right-to-work passed without immediate effect, there was a window for unions to agree to new collective bargaining agreements and thereby extend so-called “union security clauses,” which almost universally require bargaining unit employees to pay dues and fees to the union
or else be fired from their jobs. Creatively, in some contracts, labor sought to make the dues and fees last for as long as 10 years. The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation challenged one of these contracts that affected Taylor school teachers in Wayne Circuit Court. Disappointedly, the judge held that the challenge needed to be at another forum (we have both appealed this decision and filed at the other forum). 

More than 150 school districts negotiated contracts between when right-to-work passed and when it became effective. We have reviewed these, looking for the most promising targets Washtenaw County, Warren Consolidated Schools, Dearborn Schools, Merrill Schools and Coldwater Schools are among these because all negotiated new collective bargaining agreements of five years or longer). We are also monitoring these 150 districts to see if they engage in activity that would trigger right-to-work before the end of their new collective bargaining agreements. 

In addition, the legal team is actively reviewing litigation opportunities related to the Freedom of Information Act. We hope to punish governments that are abusing the public by erecting cost barriers to retrieving information on government and to highlight needed legislative change. 

Most public policy battles eventually end up in court. I enjoy being there to fight for freedom
and liberty.