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Open Meetings Challenge to Right-to-Work Law

LANSING, Mich. (CN) - The Michigan House of Representatives approved its "right-to-work" law illegally last week, while police locked the public out of the state Capitol, a union member claims in an Open Meetings Act complaint.

Robert Davis, an AFSCME representative, sued the Michigan House in Ingham County Court.

The Michigan House approved House Bill 4054 on Dec. 6, and Gov. Rick Snyder immediately signed it. Ten thousand people protested outside the Capitol and another 2,500 protested inside the building, the Detroit Free Press reported.

The law makes it illegal to demand union membership as a condition of employment, though workers who do not pay union dues will still be covered by union-negotiated contracts, according to an analysis by the Detroit Free Press.

Davis claims he went to the Capitol that day as a representative for AFSCME Council 25, but that he "and at least one other member of the plaintiff Citizens United were denied entry and access to the State Capitol and to the defendant House's December 6, 2012 session meeting by the Michigan State Police."

Davis also is director of Citizens United Against Corrupt Government, a nonprofit and co-plaintiff.

"The Michigan State Police locked the doors and denied plaintiffs and hundreds of other citizens and members of the general public entry into the State Capitol so that they each could attend defendant House's December 6, 2012 session meeting.

"Plaintiffs never gained entry into the Defendant Houses' December 6, 2012 session meeting."

Davis claims that violated Michigan's Open Meetings Act, which states that "all meetings of a public body shall be open to the public and shall be held in a place available to the general public. All persons shall be permitted to attend any meeting except as otherwise provided in this act."

The act also states: "A person shall not be excluded from a meeting otherwise open to the public except for a breach of the peace actually committed at the meeting."

Davis claims that he and his group "did not commit any civil disobedience or disturbances of the peace that would warrant plaintiffs being denied entry to defendant House's December 6, 2012 session meeting."

"Individuals who were allegedly involved in civil disobedience on December 6, 2012 at and/or during the Michigan Senate's meeting were arrested and removed. Plaintiffs were not amongst those individuals arrested and removed from the Senate Chambers.

"Accordingly, defendant had no legal authority to deny plaintiffs, citizens and other members of the public entry and access to the State Capitol where defendant House's December 6, 2012 session meeting was being held."

Therefore, Davis claims, the vote on the anti-union bill was illegal.

"In fact, as the defendant House's minutes reflect, some members of the defendant House objected to the defendant House taking any votes as a result of plaintiffs and other members of the public being denied entry into the State Capitol for such session meeting.

"In fact, Ingham County Circuit Court Judge Joyce Draganchuk had to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the Michigan State Police to reopen and unlock the doors of the State Capitol so that members of the public could have access and entry in the defendant House's session meeting."

Davis wants the court to invalidate the law.

He is represented by Andrew Paterson, of Novi, Mich.

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