This being America, no good deed goes unlitigated, but sometimes the good deed still wins. So it is in Michigan, where on Wednesday the state Supreme Court turned a union lawsuit on its head and said the state’s right-to-work law applies to 36,000 government workers.
In 2012 Michigan passed a right-to work statute that lets workers decide whether to join a union and thus pay union dues. The United Auto Workers (UAW), which represents 17,000 state workers, brought a lawsuit claiming the law doesn’t apply to its members because their employment terms are set by the Michigan Civil Service Commission.
Bad call. The Civil Service Commission had long held that, while public employees could opt out of the union, they had to pay union fees. On Wednesday the Supreme Court ruled 4-3 that the commission had no such constitutional authority “to compel civil service employees to make involuntary financial contributions.” Justice Robert Young wrote for the majority that the commission’s rule amounted to a form of taxation, and the power to tax is held exclusively by the legislature.
This is great news for self-government, empowering an elected legislature over courts and an unelected bureaucracy. But it’s even better news for state employees, who will now be able to decide if they want to pay the fees that finance an organization whose purpose and practices they may not support.
Indeed, nearly half of union members are Republicans or independents. Forcing them to support contrary political views is simply wrong.
Union membership has plummeted in Wisconsin and Indiana since similar worker freedom was allowed. The largest state teachers union in Wisconsin has lost more than half of its 40,000 members in four years. Meanwhile, the UAW faces another watershed when its auto contracts expire later this year, meaning auto workers will be eligible for right-to-work protections for the first time.