Michigan Supreme Court hears state employee right-to-work case

Jan 14, 2015

The Michigan Supreme Court will decide later this year whether the right-to-work law applies to state employee unions. The court just heard the legal challenge to the law filed by state employee unions. They say the state civil service authority supersedes the law adopted by the Legislature in 2012.

William Weirtheimer is a union attorney. He says it’s in the Michigan Constitution – the state Civil Service Commission is in charge of civil service workers.

“The commission alone regulates conditions of employment...” he told the panel of justices. Four of the justices are Republican; two are Democrats.

“The Legislature is not allowed to meddle with the classified service,” she said.

But the state says that autonomy is not absolute. If that were the case, said Assistant Solicitor General Ann Sherman, the Civil Service Commission could ignore Michigan’s minimum wage and workplace safety laws.

“We have three branches of government, and the Legislature is one of those branches. It has very broad policy-making and rule-making authority,” she said.  “The Civil Service Commission is not a fourth branch of government.”

The Supreme Court’s expected to rule later this year.

The court also heard a challenge to a state law that requires state employees to contribute more of their salaries to qualify for pension benefits.