Traverse City Record-Eagle


March 28, 2013

Mich. courts weigh suits against right-to-work law

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Several courts are considering challenges to Michigan's right-to-work law, including to how it was passed and how it will affect tens of thousands of public workers, but none were expected to issue rulings Wednesday, the last day before it takes effect.

The law passed 3½ months ago dealt a major blow to organized labor in the state where the movement has played a central role because of the auto industry. None of the judges weighing three challenges to the law are expected to issue rulings this week, and the issue isn't likely to be settled anytime soon, as further lawsuits are expected over new, lengthy public-sector labor contracts that critics say are meant to circumvent the right-to-work law for as long as possible.

Cases are pending in Ingham County, the state Court of Appeals, the Michigan Supreme Court and a federal court in Detroit. While waging a potentially uphill legal battle that could take years to resolve, labor leaders also have plans for more immediate attempts to influence public opinion ahead of the 2014 election, when Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and many GOP lawmakers are up for re-election.

Organizers promise that thousands of people across the state will wear red Thursday to protest the law, which will allow workers to choose not to pay dues or fees to the unions that bargain on their behalf and which can't be overturned through a referendum.

Although attempts to get judges to strike down the year-old right-to-work law in neighboring Indiana have failed, opponents say Michigan is different.

"All the cases are meritorious and have strong claims and arguments," said Andrew Nickelhoff, a Democratic labor lawyer involved in the Michigan challenges.

He said Republicans began quickly pushing through the legislation in December when the Capitol was closed off to some members of the public due to safety concerns.

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