Last Thursday, an appeals court decided that Michigan’s right-to-work law applies to state employees as well as to those in the private sector.
It’s no overstatement to say Michigan’s implementation of a right-to-work law early this year was a political earthquake of major proportions. Thursday’s 2-1 ruling qualifies as a very strong aftershock for those who, inevitably, were hoping they could use the courts to chip away at the reform and make their way back toward the old status quo.
Great significance can be read into all this seismic activity emanating from Michigan, of all places. It was Michigan, after all, that spawned the teacher union movement, built on the United Auto Workers model and exported around the country to dominate electoral politics in many states, Wisconsin prominent among them.
Michigan exported not only the concept but some of the same people to Wisconsin, to the detriment of educational professionalism. It says something big that the state with the most intimate knowledge of public employee unionism is throwing it overboard, despite Act 10-style protests, physical threats, and the customary litigation.
The split among the appellate judges also says something big. The two who made up the majority are both appointees of former Governor John Engler, whose pro-growth policies of welfare and education reform and income-tax reduction helped fuel prosperity. The dissenting judge is an appointee of Jennifer Granholm, who succeeded Engler, increased taxes and regulation and helped bring on seven percent unemployment years before Barack Obama made it the nationwide standard.
The majority wrote that applying right-to-work is a “proper exercise of the Legislature’s constitutional authority” to determine conditions of work for those on the state payroll.
We’d say the Legislature exercised the authority of the real employers: Michigan taxpayers.