August is the only month for school employees to exercise right-to-work rights
Michigan school teachers who are considering leaving the Michigan Education Association and miss the approaching August deadline to leave may be surprised to find their requests not honored, according to one public school teacher.
When the right-to-work law was signed, teachers wanting to leave the MEA and no longer pay dues or a fee as a condition of employment could only do so in August. The MEA has said it would use "any legal means" to stop members from leaving outside the August window.
John Ellsworth, a Grand Ledge Public School teacher, said that could create an issue for some teachers.
"I think the teachers who are determined to leave the MEA know about the August deadline," Ellsworth said in an email. "I think other teachers who are unsatisfied with the MEA may not know about the deadline and simply will not pay dues when the time comes. I think a majority of teachers are planning to stay a part of the MEA and do not care about the deadline anyway."
A review of teachers' union contracts in a Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s database shows that more than 90 school district contracts expire this month, said Audrey Spalding, director of education policy at the Center. However, some of those districts could have added a memo of understanding that extended the contracts past the date in which right-to-work took effect.
Derk Wilcox, senior attorney for the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, said there still is a legal question about the validity of the August-only window.
"The MEA has stated that it would only allow teachers to leave the union during this August window period," Wilcox said. "Given that teachers have only been provided with these new rights recently, the courts haven't yet determined if teachers have to abide by this arbitrary window. It’s certainly a good idea to treat the August window as binding on the teachers. The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation is watching the situation closely to see what the MEA will do if a teacher misses the August window and tries to withdraw their financial support after August."
Steve Cook, president of the MEA, didn't respond to a request for comment.