By Deepa Seetharaman
DETROIT Feb 12 Several labor unions filed a
lawsuit in federal court on Monday, saying a Michigan law
banning compulsory union membership for private sector employees
violates the U.S. Constitution.
The right-to-work law, which goes into effect in late March,
contains provisions that go "well beyond" the limits of federal
law, said Andrew Nickelhoff, an attorney for the Michigan
AFL-CIO, one of the unions that filed the lawsuit.
For example, the Michigan law allows for a $500 civil fine
and the possibility of criminal liability for violators, which
is not done under the National Labor Relations Act, he said.
"Our position is that so many parts of the right-to-work law
are unconstitutional, that the court should strike down the law
in its entirety," Nickelhoff said in an interview.
The lawsuit is one of three that have been filed challenging
Michigan's right-to-work laws, which prompted protests of more
than 12,000 unionized workers and supporters at the state
Capitol in Lansing after it was enacted on Dec. 11.
The AFL-CIO represents about 50 labor unions, according to
the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit.
The Michigan Building Trades Council, the International
Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Service Employees International
Union are among the other groups involved in the case.
The defendants are the Michigan Employment Relations
Commission, Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory
Affairs Director Steve Arwood, Michigan Attorney General Bill
Schuette and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.
"The law is constitutional and we will defend it
aggressively in court," said Joy Yearout, spokeswoman for the
Michigan Attorney General Schuette.
Maria Miller, spokeswoman for Wayne County Prosecutor
Worthy, said the prosecutor's office had not yet seen the filing
and declined to comment.
Michigan, once a union powerhouse, became the country's 24th
right-to-work state after Republican Governor Rick Snyder
approved a pair of "right-to-work" bills covering public- and
private-sector unions in December.
Monday's lawsuit does not cover the law affecting