Labor — April 4, 2013 at 6:54 am

AG Schuette is denied, lawsuit challenging Michigan’s Right to Work law goes forward


Michigan citizens: 1, Attorney General Bill Schuette: 0

Back in January, I wrote about a lawsuit filed by the ACLU, the MEA, the AFL-CIO and others that challenged Michigan’s Right to Work law since it was passed in violation of the Michigan Open Meetings Act. Because Republicans locked citizens (and Democratic lawmakers) out of the building during the vote, the plaintiffs say the law should be invalidated.

This could be a HUGE deal because Republicans passed the legislation by a margin that was larger than than the margin they hold in the House after last November’s election. They would be forced to bring more of their GOP caucus over to vote yes on this legislation which may be difficult do, politically speaking.

Yesterday, Ingham County Circuit Judge William Collette overruled a request by Attorney General Bill Schuette to throw the case out of court.

You can read the complaint HERE (pdf).

Here’s a full list of the plaintiffs:

  • Michigan Education Association (MEA)
  • Michigan State AFL-CIO
  • Michigan Building & Construction Trades Council
  • Change to Win
  • Bonnie Bucqueroux, citizen journalist and professor
  • Steve Cook, president of the MEA
  • Rick Trainor of the MEA
  • Sen. Rebekah Warren
  • Rep. Rashida Tlaib
  • Rep. Brandon Dillon

While AG Schuette is putting a brave face on it saying through a spokesperson that he’s “confident that the law will be upheld and stand when it’s all said and done”, so, too, is ACLU Attorney Michael Pitt:

Collette had tough questions for state officials at the hearing. But he also told the ACLU of Michigan and union groups they have an “uphill battle” going forward in the case.

ACLU Attorney Michael Pitt says that doesn’t worry him a bit.

“I’ve heard that from judges for 39 years as a lawyer, and somehow I’ve been able to climb uphill and win the cases.”

Pitt says the ruling means they can now gather more evidence and interview witnesses to build a case.

Geno Alessandrini of the Michigan Laborers District Council released this statement:

It’s heartening that Judge Collette decided to throw out Attorney General Bill Schuette’s absurd arguments to block this lawsuit from moving forward. Last December our members were locked outside of the People’s House for nearly five hours while Lansing Republicans dishonestly slipped so-called ‘right-to-work’ language into an unrelated bill. Closing the Capitol during session and ordering Republican staffers to occupy seats in the gallery that are reserved for the public was a blatant violation of the Open Meetings Act. It’s encouraging that the public will finally get our day in court. Hopefully Lansing Republicans will get the message that it’s time to start protecting middle class families, instead of corporate special interests.

Given the makeup of the state Supreme Court at the moment, it clearly WILL be an uphill battle. Nonetheless, this sort of public pushback will keep the issue in front of Michigan voters who are already divided on the issue. Continuously reminding the voters in our state that Republicans held exactly ZERO hearings on Right to Work, filled the House and Senate public viewing seats with staffers to keep out everyday citizens, and then locked the doors to the Capitol Building while they voted will all be beneficial to Democrats as we approach the 2014 midterm election. Even Republican-leaning voters will have trouble swallowing that their party wins by cheating and by fluidly manipulating the rules to suit their needs.

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