LANSING, MI (WLNS) – In a 4 to 3 decision today, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that the state Civil Service Commission lacks the authority to impose mandatory feeds on thousands of civil servants.
It’s a big defeat for unions, especially those who have been collecting fees from state workers, even if workers didn’t want full membership.
The decision echoes Michigan’s controversial Right-to-Work law that’s been in place since 2013.
However, the state Supreme Court says that law did not impact their decision and justices say the ruling is based on the state Constitution.
“We’re also concerned that state employees now are at the will of the political vagaries of the state legislature and it kind of harkens back to a political patronage system that the Civil Service Commission was designed to eliminate,” Liza Estlund Olson, Director of the SEUI 517M said.
More than 35,000 state workers are no longer required to pay union dues or fees.
Ken Moore, President of the Michigan State Employees Association said without that money, it imposes a financial challenge for the unions.
“And their survival to be able to do the jobs we do, and the negotiations as we have up and coming whether it be labor management, expenses or grievance representation on the front line, those cost money to make happen,” Moore said.
And while unions have concerns, Republican Senator Mike Shirkey said this ruling is a good thing for state workers, and will positively impact unions in the long run.
“They’re going to have to work a little harder, they’re going to have to re-evaluate their business model, and they’re going to have to prove their value,” Sen. Shirkey said. “And if they do all of those three things, I believe they can make a compelling case for people who chose to be a partner of the union.”
The director of SEIU said 97 percent of its members are contributing to the union. It’s the same trend for the Michigan Corrections Organization, where only 3 percent of employees opt out.
“Corrections officers do one of the most dangerous jobs here in Michigan and the morale is just in the gutter,” Tylutki said. “They’ve been taking hits for the last four to six years and this is just another hit that they’re going to have to absorb. It’s disheartening when they’re putting their lives on the line every day.”
“These decisions today are an absolute direct slap to the middle class which is what every civil servant is in the state of Michigan,” Moore said.
But despite the ruling, union reps say the fight isn’t over.
“We keep representing our members, we keep making sure that their voices are heard in setting the terms and conditions in their employment,” Estlund Olson said.
The Michigan Supreme Court also up-held a law today requiring state employees to contribute four percent of their pay into their pension in order to qualify for a full pension in retirement
Justices ruled the 2011 law does not get in the way of the civil service commissions powers because voters did not consider pensions to be compensation
Senator Rick Jones weighed in on this ruling.
“I was surprised by the second half of that ruling, I really thought that it would be found unconstitutional, because the state constitution does protect those workers’ pensions,” Senator Jones said. “All new state employees including those in the legislature have to pay into a 401k, We have no pensions so this is only the few thousand that still have not retired.”
About 16,000 state employees hired before April of 1997 are contributing to get a full pension. However, state employees who were hired since then, make payments into a 401k plan.