Governor Snyder has exercised his constitutional authority to ask the Michigan Supreme Court to issue an advisory opinion regarding the constitutionality of Michigan’s new right-to-work legislation. That legislation, set to take effect on March 27, 2013, prevents employers from requiring employees to join a union as a condition of employment. If the Michigan Supreme Court accepts the request, the Snyder administration will have succeeded in significantly reducing the time it takes to resolve constitutional challenges to the legislation.
The advisory-opinion request identifies four questions of statewide importance:
- Whether the right-to-work legislation applying to public employers “interferes with the authority of the Civil Service Commission” and therefore “is not lawfully binding on the classified state civil service”?
- If the right-to-work legislation is not binding on the classified civil service, does the legislation violate the Michigan and federal constitutional requirements of equal protection of the law because the legislation does not apply to state classified employees but does apply to other employees?
- Does the legislation violate equal protection of the law because it does not apply to all employees in public or private sector bargaining units?
- Does the right-to-work legislation applicable to public employers violate the Michigan Constitution’s prohibition on changing the purpose of a law after its original passage by either house of the Michigan legislature?
Governor Snyder’s request indicates that an advisory opinion is necessary because the State’s collective-bargaining agreements expire on December 31, 2013. Contract negotiations are likely to start this summer. Governor Snyder is asking that the Court issue an advisory opinion before negotiations begin so that all parties know whether the right-to-work legislation will apply to all state employees.