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Thu Dec 13, 2012, 03:13 PM

Right-to-work Michigan: Critics question whether law affects 35K state employees

At issue is whether the Michigan Civil Service Commission, which is authorized by the state constitution to establish workplace rules and wages for state employees, is subject to the laws.

The administration of Gov. Rick Snyder, who signed the legislation into law Tuesday, has maintained the law does apply to state workers. But two commission officials and a state constitutional expert disagree. The legislation made Michigan the 24th state to adopt right-to-work laws, which makes it illegal to require most public and private employees to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

“It amazes that me that people are going around saying this affects state employees,” said Richard McLellan, a Republican attorney and a Lansing-based expert in constitutional law. “Under the state constitution, the Civil Service Commission has plenary power over state employees. The Legislature has no power.”

The issue could be the next chapter in what has been growing conflict between a Democratic-leaning Civil Service Commission and Snyder, a Republican, and it may eventually be decided by the courts. Despite objections by Snyder’s administration, the commission last year extended health benefits to domestic partners of thousands of state employees.


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