(MintPress) – Michigan labor unions representing 700,000 union workers filed a lawsuit Monday claiming state right-to-work laws violate workers’ ability to collectively organize — a right protected under federal legislation.
Among the leading unions pushing the lawsuit are The Michigan AFL-CIO, the Building and Trades Council, the Teamsters, SEIU, United Farm Workers and the United Food and Commercial Workers.
Representatives say Michigan’s right-to-work law affects private-sector employees because unions are protected under federal law and are governed by the National Labor Relations, not state law.
“In their haste to enact right-to-work, the Legislature overreached,” said Andrew Nickelhoff, general counsel for the Michigan AFL-CIO.
He adds: “This lawsuit only deals with the act that affects private-sector employees, because they’re covered under federal labor law.” Federal law ultimately trumps state law when there is a conflict because of a principle defined as the “supremacy clause” in Article VI, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution.
The controversial right-to-work legislation was signed into law Dec. 11 by Governor Rick Snyder. Although national media focused on two arrests and isolated scuffles with anti-labor counter protesters, the 13,000 union members assembled in Lansing to protest the new law were mostly peaceful in their opposition.
If the lawsuit fails to overturn the right-to-work legislation, labor leaders are preparing a robust election campaign in the leadup to the 2014 midterm elections. By mobilizing union members, their families and supporters, leaders hope to change the composition of the state legislature by voting in as many favorable, pro-labor candidates as possible.
Republican legislators anticipated the voter pushback by limiting the ability of voters to hold a recall election, like the one held in Wisconsin in July 2012. Although voters failed to remove Gov. Scott Walker, a promoter of right-to-work laws in Wisconsin, voters exercised the right to challenge Walker through electoral recall.
During the same lame duck session, Michigan Republicans changed state laws making it more difficult for voters to launch a recall campaign, like the one seen in Wisconsin. Petitions requiring 25 percent of eligible voters’ signatures now have to be filed in 60 days, rather than in 90 days, making it difficult for unions to rally sufficient support in such a short time.
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