As the country celebrates contributions of workers this Labor Day weekend, a coalition of unions representing Michigan public employees is suing the Michigan Civil Service Commission to stop capricious new rules attacking state employees’ first amendment right to support their union and violating established contract provisions.
“We are disappointed, but not surprised that the Michigan Civil Service Commission is choosing to blatantly ignore the carefully negotiated collective bargaining agreements they themselves authorized in favor of political attacks. This is part of a long-running campaign against working families in Michigan and across the country, pushed by billionaire-backed anti-worker groups.
“It’s clear that the MCSC rule is meant to create burdens for members to freely associate and be represented in the workplace. Now more than ever, these essential workers, who serve the citizens of Michigan without fail, even during the 2020 pandemic, deserve the right to be represented on crucial health and safety issues without hurdles. Dedicated state employees are testing for COVID in Department of Health labs, distributing unemployment benefits, providing healthcare, safeguarding our prison population, caring for veterans, and keeping our roads, food and water supply safe, among many other duties. Through their unions, they advocate for their families, for good jobs, and for quality public services in Michigan.
“The Commission’s new rule requiring annual reauthorization of dues deduction conflicts with our collective bargaining agreements, which the Commission previously approved, and therefore violates the Contracts Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The Commission’s action also interferes with our members’ freedoms of speech and association under the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Federal Constitution. These constitutional violations are particularly galling at a time when these hardworking public workers are coping with providing service to all Michiganders during the COVID-19 crisis.
“We ask that the US District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan uphold the Constitutional rights of the members of UAW, AFSCME and SEIU.”
“At a time when we are stepping up to serve the public during the pandemic, the Michigan Civil Service Commission is making it harder on us to have representation. They seem to think it’s cute to play games with our union membership rights. I’d much rather they leave us to serve the public in this difficult time and have our union protected from political interference,” said Ed Mitchell, President of UAW Local 6000.
Tammy Porter, President of AFSCME Local 261 (Grand Rapids Home for Veterans) said “The fact that the Civil Service Commission is fighting to change rules and take away more of our rights at work during a pandemic is unbelievable. I have gone to work every day at the Grand Rapids Home for Veterans, working hard to care for some of our nation’s most vulnerable heroes. I’ve seen so many of my co-workers going above and beyond these last 6 months, putting ourselves and our families in danger because of this disease. This is the thanks we get? We deserve better than this.”
“I’ve been working around 10 hours a day, six days a week at the Unemployment Insurance Agency, trying to process all the skyrocketing claims so struggling Michiganders can keep a roof over their heads and put food on the table,” said Roland Whitelow, a member of SEIU Local 517M who has been an unemployment insurance agent in Detroit for 18 years. “State employees are dedicated to supporting the people of our state, and all we ask for in return is fair treatment. I have three sons in college, a daughter about to go to college, and all of them plus my wife are on my union-negotiated health insurance. Unions are about protecting working families and the American Dream so we can have a better future, and that’s what we’re fighting for in this case.”
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