ACLU and labor coalition file suit to block Michigan’s Right to Work legislation

The fight continues…

My good friend Bonnie Bucqueroux, a professor at Lansing Community College and owner of the esteemed Lansing Online News, has joined with the American Civil Liberties Union and a coalition labor groups to file a lawsuit intended strike down Michigan’s recent Right to Work law. The suit contends that the legislation was passed in violation of the Open Meetings Act when Republicans locked down the Capitol and wouldn’t even allow journalists, including citizen journalists like Bucqueroux, to cover the unfolding drama.

In a statement released today, Bucqueroux had this to say:

The role of citizen journalists in this age of media consolidation is more important than ever in bringing the news that’s not fit to print to our communities. I was disappointed to find myself locked out of the Capitol and unable to report on this historic event. A vibrant and free media is vital to keeping government honest.

Here’s more from the ACLU’s press release:

The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan and a coalition of labor unions asked a judge today to strike down the recently passed right-to-work law because it was enacted while the public was locked out of the Capitol in violation of the Open Meetings Act, the First Amendment, and the Michigan Constitution. The case, filed on behalf of a journalist, citizens, legislators, and unions, charges that government officials, in an unprecedented assault on democracy, deprived the public of their right to participate in the legislative process.

“Rushing controversial bills through a lame duck session is a bad way to make public policy under the best of circumstances; doing so on such important issues while the public is shut out of the debate every step of the way is illegal and shameful,” said Kary L. Moss, ACLU of Michigan executive director. “We have a sacred right to peacefully assemble and petition our government. When there is dissent and emotions are running high, our elected leaders should encourage more open debate, not close the doors to concerned voters.”

The lawsuit stems from the contentious events of Dec. 6, 2012, when the Michigan Capitol doors were locked to prevent additional people from coming to witness or engage their legislators while the controversial right-to-work bills were being debated on the House and Senate floors. The public, including some journalists, were locked out for more than four hours while legislators debated and voted on the bills. While individuals already in the Capitol could stay, people waiting outside were not allowed to enter. In addition, the galleries overlooking the House floor were intentionally packed with legislative staffers so that the public would not be allowed in.

In addition to Bucqueroux, the lawsuit was brought on behalf of Steve Cook and Rick Trainor, Sen. Rebekah Warren and Reps. Rashida Tlaib and Brandon Dillon, the Michigan Education Association, Michigan State AFL-CIO, Michigan Building & Construction Trades Council, and Change to Win.

Given the make-up of our courts at the moment, I’m not particularly hopeful that this will go far but it’s something that simply had to happen. In the meantime, Governor Snyder has preemptively asked the State Supreme Court to make a decision on Right to Work. Since Snyder’s request is with regard to the constitutionality of the law rather than the legality of the process by which it was enacted, it’s unclear how his request will impact this new suit.

You can read the entire complaint HERE (pdf).

Stay tuned. This is going to get very interesting.

[Photo credit: Anne C. Savage, special to Eclectablog]

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