MEA and others file lawsuit to invalidate illegal ‘right-to-work’ law

Lawsuit: Michigan Legislature violated Open Meetings Act by passing right-to-work bills while citizens were illegally barred from entering Capitol

EAST LANSING, Mich., Feb. 1, 2013 — Michigan’s new “right-to-work” law should be overturned because the state Legislature violated state and federal open government laws when passing it, according to a lawsuit filed Thursday by the Michigan Education Association and others in Ingham County Circuit Court.

Without a single public hearing, the state House and Senate passed legislation on the afternoon of Dec. 6 to make Michigan a right-to-work state. Simultaneously that afternoon, state police barred citizens from entering the Capitol, despite state law that requires the Capitol to remain open when the Legislature is in session. In addition, partisan legislative staffers were also ordered to fill the public galleries in the House and Senate to stop regular citizens from observing the votes.  

According to the lawsuit, Michigan lawmakers violated the Michigan Open Meetings Act, the state Constitution and the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

"By allowing state police to block citizens from entering the Capitol, Lansing politicians not only violated the basic American principles of open and transparent government, they also violated specific state and federal laws designed to protect the rights of citizens," MEA President Steven Cook said. "We're confident the courts will agree that the Legislature's actions on the afternoon of Dec. 6 constituted a clear violation of the Open Meetings Act and should be invalidated."

The Michigan Open Meetings Act requires that “[a]ll decisions of a public body shall be made at a meeting open to the public.” It also states that a “decision made by a public body may be invalidated if the public body has not complied” with the act.

Joining the MEA in the lawsuit is the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, along with a coalition of labor unions and citizen watchdogs.

Contact: Doug Pratt, MEA Director of Public Affairs, 517-337-5566