Saginaw art teacher said he was not told he had only one month to exercise his rights
When Matt Knapp was hired as a teacher in the Saginaw Public School district 11 years ago, he said he was given paperwork to sign to be a union member.
"Oh, no," Knapp said he told the district employee. "I'd rather not be in the union."
To his surprise, he was told it was a condition of employment.
That changed last year when Michigan became a right-to-work state, which allows union members the freedom to choose whether they want to pay dues or fees to the union. When that happened, Knapp said he approached his union about how to opt out.
He said he was told he missed the August window to leave, the only time the Michigan Education Association allows members to opt out. Knapp said he did not know that was the only time of the year he could leave.
Knapp filed an unfair labor complaint along with six other teachers with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission against their local unions and the MEA. The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation is representing the teachers.
Knapp, 46, is an art teacher at Ruben Daniels Middle School in Saginaw.
"This has nothing to do with my school or the Saginaw district," Knapp said. "I've not been a large supporter of the union to begin with, and when the right-to-work action passed, I was excited about it. I was not notified about a deadline. I'm trying to leave the union gracefully if they will let me. I think that the union's responsibility is to fight for the right of the worker, and my right is to not be part of the union. … That is one right they won't protect, apparently."
Saginaw Education Association President Leann Bauer and Michigan Education Association UniServ Director for Saginaw Sue Rutherford didn't respond to requests for comment.
The teachers involved in the lawsuit against their unions include:
- Miriam Chanski, a kindergarten teacher in Coopersville who is a member of the Coopersville Education Association;
- William "Ray" Arthur, a high school teacher in Petoskey who is a member of the Petoskey Education Association;
- Matthew Knapp, an art teacher at Ruben Daniels Middle School and member of the Saginaw Education Association;
- Kurt Alliton, a technology teacher at the Thompson Middle School and member of the Saginaw Education Association;
- Susan Romska, a geometry teacher at Arthur Hill High School and member of the Saginaw Education Association;
- Jason LaPorte, a social studies teacher at Arthur Hill High School and member of the Saginaw Education Association;
- Kathy Eady-Miskiewicz, an English teacher at Arthur Hill High School and a member of the Saginaw Education Association.
A video report about Matt and the teachers in Saginaw suing the union: