A contract that denies teachers their right to leave their union for a decade is legal, according to an administrative law judge.
In February 2013, three Taylor School District teachers sued the Taylor Federation of Teachers Local 1085, the school board and the school administration in Wayne County Circuit Court over an agreement that forces them to pay union dues or fees until 2023. The decade-long extended payment mandate was separate from the five-year contract the school board and union reached.
Julia Stern, an administrative law judge with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, ruled that the lawsuit be dismissed. She said the decade-long "union security agreement" bothered her but that she could not modify it. Her recommendation now goes before the full MERC board.
Special education teacher Angela Steffke, special education teacher Nancy Rhatigan and English teacher Rebecca Metz are represented in the lawsuit by the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation. The legal foundation argued that the 10-year agreement prevents union members from exercising the right to leave the union without paying fees or dues as allowed under Michigan's recently passed right-to-work law.
"If upheld, this ruling would mean that a union could enter into an indefinite union security agreement," Derk Wilcox, senior attorney with the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, said in a release. "If 10 years is acceptable, why not 50? Why not 99? The logic of this ruling means that local governments, by enacting specific agreements for long periods of time, could sidestep state laws they disagree with."