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Int'l Union v. Green

Supreme Court of Michigan

July 29, 2015

INTERNATIONAL UNION, UNITED AUTOMOBILE AEROSPACE AND AGRICULTURAL IMPLEMENT WORKERS OF AMERICA et al., Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
NINO E. GREEN et al., Defendants-Appellees

Argued January 13, 2015.

Page 868

The International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America and others brought an action in the Court of Appeals against Nino E. Green and other members of the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, the Governor, and the Attorney General, seeking a declaratory judgment that portions of 2012 PA 349--which amended the public employment relations act (PERA), MCL 423.201 et seq., to prohibit public employers from requiring their employees to join a union or pay union-related expenses--were unconstitutional with respect to employees in the classified state civil service. The Court of Appeals, SAAD, P.J., and DONOFRIO, J. (GLEICHER, J., dissenting), held that the challenged portions of 2012 PA 349 were constitutional. 302 Mich.App. 246; 839 N.W.2d 1 (2013). The Supreme Court granted plaintiffs' application for leave to appeal. 495 Mich. 921, 843 N.W.2d 742 (2014) .

For UAW, UAW LOCAL 6000, Plaintiffs: MICHAEL NICHOLSON, LEGAL DEPT UAW, DETROIT, MI; AVA R. BARBOUR, DETROIT, MI; WILLIAM A. WERTHEIMER, FRANKLIN, MI.

For MICHIGAN CORRECTIONS ORGANIZATION SEIU LOCAL 526, MICHIGAN PUBLIC EMPLOYEES SEIU LOCAL 517M, Plaintiffs: ANDREW NICKELHOFF, DETROIT, MI; WILLIAM A. WERTHEIMER, FRANKLIN, MI.

For MICHIGAN STATE EMPLOYEES ASSOCIATION AFSCME LOCAL 5, Plaintiff: MICHAEL E. CAVANAUGH, BRANDON W. ZUK, LANSING, MI; WILLIAM A. WERTHEIMER, FRANKLIN, MI.

For NINO ERWIN GREEN, EDWARD D. CALLAGHAN, ROBERT LABRANT, GOVERNOR OF MICHIGAN, ATTORNEY GENERAL, Defendants: ANN M. SHERMAN, LANSING, MI.

Chief Justice: Robert P. Young, Jr. Justices: Stephen J. Markman, Mary Beth Kelly, Brian K. Zahra, Bridget M. McCormack, David F. Viviano, Richard H. Bernstein. KELLY, J. (dissenting).

OPINION

[498 Mich. 284] BEFORE THE ENTIRE BENCH

Page 869

Young, C.J.

The Civil Service Commission's rules allow public collective bargaining agreements that require collection of a mandatory service fee, also known as an " agency shop fee," from union-eligible employees who opt out of union membership. Civ Serv R 6-7.2. Although we conclude that public collective bargaining is a method by which the Civil Service Commission (the commission) may choose to exercise its constitutional duties, we hold that the commission may not effectively require civil servants to fund the commission's own administrative operations. Accordingly, we affirm, albeit on different grounds, the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

FACTS AND HISTORY

The legislation commonly known as the " Right to Work" laws--Public Acts 348 and 349 of 2012--were made effective March 27, 2013. 2012 PA 348 governs private employers and 2012 PA 349 governs public employers. This case concerns the constitutionality of [498 Mich. 285] 2012 PA 349. Section 3 of 2012 PA 349 amends the public employment relations act (PERA), MCL 423.201 et seq., to provide that public employers may not require their employees to join a union or pay union dues, fees, or other expenses " as a condition of obtaining or continuing public employment . . . ." MCL 423.210(3) (" [A]n individual shall not be required as a condition of obtaining or continuing public employment to do any of the following: . . . (c) [p]ay any dues, fees, assessments, or other charges or expenses of any kind or amount, or provide anything of value to a labor organization or bargaining representative." ).

The commission's current rules, however, affirmatively and expressly allow public collective bargaining agreements that provide for the collection of an agency shop fee from union-eligible employees who opt out of union membership. Civil Service Rule 6-7.2 (last amended April 29, 2004) provides:

Nothing in this rule precludes the employer from making an agreement with an exclusive representative to require, as a condition of continued employment, that each eligible employee in the unit who chooses not to become a member of the exclusive representative shall pay a service fee to the exclusive representative.

Page 870

If agreed to in a collective bargaining agreement, the state may deduct the service fee by payroll deduction. An appointing authority shall not deduct a service fee unless the employee has filed a prior written authorization or as otherwise authorized in a collective bargaining agreement.

Plaintiffs, union representatives of classified civil service employees, contend that agency shop fees defray various union activity costs. In accordance with the current rules, plaintiff unions have negotiated various agreements with the state that contain agency shop fee arrangements covering the employees whom they represent.

[498 Mich. 286] 2012 PA 349 purports to make these mandatory agency shop fees illegal. Plaintiff labor unions filed the instant complaint in February 2013 challenging the validity of 2012 PA 349, § 3.[1] Plaintiffs alleged that, under Const 1963, art 11, § 5, the statute's agency shop fee prohibition cannot apply to the commission because it infringes the commission's constitutional mandate to " regulate all conditions of employment" for civil servants.

The Court of Appeals in a split decision held that the Legislature possesses the authority to enact legislation concerning and restricting agency shop fees. Int'l Union v Green, 302 Mich.App. 246; 839 N.W.2d 1 (2013). In reaching that conclusion, the Court of Appeals reasoned that the commission's power to " regulate" conditions of employment is necessarily subservient to the Legislature's power to " enact laws" relative to hours and conditions of employment. The dissent, on the other hand, would have held that agency shop fees are " conditions of employment" by virtue of being " on-duty employment concerns." Id. at 294 (Gleicher, J., dissenting).

STANDARD OF REVIEW

Questions of constitutional and statutory interpretation are reviewed de novo. Hunter v Hunter, 484 Mich. 247, 257; 771 N.W.2d 694 (2009).

ANALYSIS

Our primary goal in construing a constitutional provision is to give effect to the intent of the people of the state of Michigan who ratified the Constitution, by [498 Mich. 287] applying the rule of " common understanding." See Goldstone v Bloomfield Twp Pub Library, 479 Mich. 554, 558-559; 737 N.W.2d 476 (2007) (" When interpreting constitutional provisions, our primary objective is to realize the intent of the people by whom and for whom the constitution was ratified. That is, we seek the 'common understanding' of the people at the time the constitution was ratified. This involves applying the plain meaning of each term used at the time of ratification, unless technical, legal terms are used." ) (citations and quotation marks omitted). We identify the common understanding of constitutional text by applying the plain meaning of the text at the time of ratification. Wayne Co v Hathcock, 471 Mich. 445, 468-469; 684 N.W.2d 765 (2004). Interpretation of a constitutional provision also takes account of " the circumstances leading to the adoption of the provision and the purpose sought to be accomplished." People v Tanner, 496 Mich. 199, 226; 853 N.W.2d 653 (2014) (citation and quotation marks omitted). Unless we are able to determine that a constitutional provision had some other particularized or specialized meaning in the collective mind

Page 871

of the 1963 electorate, we must give effect to the natural meaning of the language used in the Constitution. Mich United Conservation Clubs v Secretary of State (After Remand), 464 Mich. 359, 376; 630 N.W.2d 297 (2001) (YOUNG, J., concurring). Technical legal terms are those that have acquired a special meaning and " must be interpreted in light of the meaning that those sophisticated in the law would have given those terms at the time of ratification." Mich. DOT v Tomkins, 481 Mich. 184, 191; 749 N.W.2d 716 (2008). The Address to the People, which was distributed to Michigan citizens in advance of the ratification vote and which explained in everyday language what each provision of the proposed new Constitution [498 Mich. 288] was intended to accomplish, Walker v Wolverine Fabricating & Mfg Co, Inc, 425 Mich. 586, 597; 391 N.W.2d 296 (1986), and, to a lesser degree, the constitutional convention debates themselves are also relevant in determining the ratifiers' intent. Lapeer Co Clerk v Lapeer Circuit Court, 469 Mich. 146, 156; 665 N.W.2d 452 (2003).

" The Civil Service Commission is a constitutional body . . . ." Viculin v Dep't of Civil Serv, 386 Mich. 375, 393; 192 N.W.2d 449 (1971). It possesses " plenary and absolute powers in its field." Id. at 398. The constitutional provision concerning the commission, article 11, § 5, provides, in relevant part:

The Commission shall classify all positions in the classified service according to their respective duties and responsibilities, fix rates of compensation for all classes of positions, approve or disapprove disbursements for all personal services, determine by competitive examination and performance exclusively on the basis of merit, efficiency and fitness the qualifications of all candidates for positions in the classified service, make rules and regulations covering all personnel transactions, and regulate all conditions of employment in the classified service. [Const 1963, art 11, § 5, ¶ 4.]

Article 11, § 5 thus sets forth the " duties of the Civil Service Commission[.]" See Mich Coalition of State Employee Unions v Civil Serv Comm, 465 Mich. 212, 221; 634 N.W.2d 692 (2001). The commission possesses authority over and exercises its duties concerning, in part, " the procedures by which a state civil service employee may review his grievance," Viculin, 386 Mich. at 393, as well as rates of compensation and conditions of employment. See American Federation of State, ...


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