A news service for the people of Michigan from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy

Teachers rallied against right-to-work in December in Lansing.

School unions and administrators in Michigan were very busy early this year. At least 145 Michigan school districts signed right-to-work-dodging contracts that lock union members into paying dues or fees as a condition of employment.

Unions tried to get new contracts signed before March 28 when the state's right-to-work law went to effect. When contracts expire, union members in Michigan can exercise their right to get out of their union.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy has been using the Freedom of Information Act to keep track of how many school districts signed new contracts.

"Our count is not exhaustive," said Michael Van Beek, director of education policy at the Mackinac Center. "There are a few districts still working to get back to us and others that we might have missed.

"Some districts clearly used this opportunity to get concessions from unions, essentially trading off school employees' new rights to not financially support a union for fiscally stability," Van Beek continued. "Others, though, didn't seem to require much or any concessions from the unions, but signed off on the deal anyway. In those cases it's hard to see the beneficiaries of the deal being anybody other than the union bosses."

Some of the 145 districts that signed right-to-work dodging contracts agreed to more than just one. At least 260 different union contracts were signed during the roughly three-months between when the law was signed in December and when it went into effect.

"I'd estimate that about 10 percent of these were just coincidental and not motivated by right-to-work," Van Beek said.

The following are some examples of the union contracts that were signed:

  • Wayne-Westland ratified new contracts for eight different employee groups over this period;
  • Fraser and Macomb Intermediate School Districts each did six contracts;
  • Dearborn did a contract with administrators that expires July 1, 2023;
  • Van Dyke signed a contract with office personnel that runs until June 30, 2021, and specifically binds the parties and their successors; and
  • Hartland signed three contracts that don’t expire until 2020.

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See also:

Michigan Capitol Confidential Coverage of Right-to-Work

Mackinac Center for Public Policy Director of Education Policy Audrey Spalding describes her latest study on right-to-work law violations in public school contracts and suggests why districts and unions are ignoring the law.


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