January 30, 2013
Constitutionalizing Right to Work
Just a month after Michigan passed so-called "right-to-work" legislation--and became the 24th state to prohibit requiring employees to join a union or pay equivalent fees in a union shop--legislatures in Iowa and Virginia both upped the ante and took up provisions to amend their state constitutions to include right to work. (The Virginia measure now appears dead.)
These aren't the first states to move to constitutionalize right to work. Arizona has a state constitutional right-to-work provision:
Article XXV Right to Work. Right to work or employment without membership in labor organization.
No person shall be denied the opportunity to obtain or retain employment because of non-membership in a labor organization, nor shall the State or any subdivision thereof, or any corporation, individual or association of any kind enter into any agreement, written or oral, which excludes any person from employment or continuation of employment because of non-membership in a labor organization.
Article I, Section 6: Right to work.
The right of persons to work shall not be denied or abridged on account of membership or non-membership in any labor union or labor organization. The right of employees, by and through a labor organization, to bargain collectively shall not be denied or abridged. Public employees shall not have the right to strike.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) is taking a different tack in relation to his state's constitution: he has asked the state supreme court to issue an advisory opinion on the constitutionality of the state's recently enacted right-to-work laws. The questions: whether the new right-to-work law for the public sector interferes with the Civil Service Commission's constitutional authority, thus nullifying the law as applied to the classified state civil service; and, if so, whether the laws violate equal protection (by treating the classified civil service differently than everyone else). There's another question: whether the new laws violate state constitutional provisions stating that a bill can't be amended to change its original purpose and that bills have to meet certain procedural requirements (including sitting in each house for at least five days, and read three times).
Snyder's move appears to be designed to short-circuit promised legal actions to halt or delay the implementation of the bills. Getting a favorable ruling from the state supreme court would allow Snyder to implement the laws immediately.
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