DETROIT (Reuters) - Several labor unions filed a lawsuit in federal court on Monday, saying a Michigan law banning compulsory union membership for private sector employees violates the U.S. Constitution.
The right-to-work law, which goes into effect in late March, contains provisions that go "well beyond" the limits of federal law, said Andrew Nickelhoff, an attorney for the Michigan AFL-CIO, one of the unions that filed the lawsuit.
For example, the Michigan law allows for a $500 civil fine and the possibility of criminal liability for violators, which is not done under the National Labor Relations Act, he said.
"Our position is that so many parts of the right-to-work law are unconstitutional that the court should strike down the law in its entirety," Nickelhoff said in an interview.
The AFL-CIO represents about 50 labor unions, according to the complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Detroit.
The Michigan Building Trades Council, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the Service Employees International Union are among the other groups involved in the case.
The defendants, who were not immediately available for comment, are the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Director Steve Arwood, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.
In December, the Michigan House of Representatives gave final approval to a pair of "right-to-work" bills covering public- and private-sector unions during a lame-duck session.
Monday's lawsuit does not cover the Michigan right-to-work law affecting public-sector workers.
The law made Michigan, once a union powerhouse, the nation's 24th right-to-work state. When Republican Governor Rick Snyder signed the bill on December 11, more than 12,000 unionized workers and supporters protested at the Capital.
(Reporting By Deepa Seetharaman. Editing by Andre Grenon)
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