Taylor School District board is expected to approve deal Thursday
The Taylor School District reached a five-year tentative agreement with the Taylor Federation of Teachers that would prevent its union employees from having the option of leaving the teacher’s union, the superintendent confirmed.
The contract is expected to be approved by the school board at a special school board meeting tonight. The contract will prohibit union members from exercising their right to not pay dues or fees to the union as a condition of employment thanks to Michigan becoming the nation's 24th right-to-work state late last year. The law takes effect March 28, so unions are scrambling to get agreements approved by schools boards and voted upon by members before the new law disallows such agreements.
While union officials routinely claim that workers are free to leave the union, they still require workers to support the union in the absence of a right-to-work law.
Union members in the Taylor School District have been kept in the dark about the details of the agreement, according to a memo released by Union President Linda Scott Moore. Michigan Capitol Confidential confirmed the contents of the memo with a union member.
"In an effort to preserve the tentative agreement the TFT negotiation team and executive board has chosen to withhold the tentative agreement until after the board of education ratifies," Moore wrote in the memo. "While frustrating, the TFT feels that this is in the best interest of our membership. We all have much to lose if we are prevented from moving forward with a ratification vote."
Instead, union members will see the contract for the first time Friday and then will vote on it Feb. 5, said Superintendent Diane Allen, who in an email confirmed the memo's statements.
"I think this tentative agreement will be instrumental in addressing and resolving the significant financial problems faced by the district and wish to thank the Taylor Federation of Teachers for their significant and substantial contributions to the fiscal health of the District," Allen said in a press release.
She did not explain how the school district's financial troubles would be eased. The Taylor School District reportedly is more than $20 million in debt.
Union President Moore and Union Officer Thomas Fulton didn't respond to requests for comment.
The Taylor School District is the first public entity known to act on forcing union members to pay dues or fees by way of a contract extension, although similar 9-year contracts have been drafted by union representatives at Western Michigan University and Berkley Public Schools.
"Anyone trying to artificially extend a contract is clearly trying to circumvent a law the legislature passed and the governor signed," said Ari Adler, press secretary for Speaker of the House Jase Bolger, R-Marshall. "We would hope that governing bodies would do everything they can to follow the language and the intent of state laws to be good stewards of the tax dollars they are spending and protect worker freedom."
As of 2011, the Taylor School District paid two union stewards to spend more than half their time working exclusively on union business. The district paid Jeffrey Woodford $96,419 in total compensation and allowed him to spend 75 percent of his time on union business. The other 25 percent of the time he taught at Truman High School. Moore, who is the current union president, is a middle school science teacher in Taylor with $88,016 in total compensation and was allowed to spend 50 percent of her time on union business.
Last month, the Taylor School District was forced to close because teachers called in sick and took vacation days to attend a protest in Lansing against right-to-work legislation.