Right-to-work law allows Wyoming Public Schools to protect employee
The Wyoming Public Schools needs more bus drivers and district officials say they have "exhausted our options" trying to find new workers.
Yet, a Michigan Education Association UniServ Director asked the district to fire a substitute bus driver because he did not sign paperwork to join the union. School district officials said the bus driver didn't have to join the union as a condition of employment under the state's right-to-work law.
In an April 16 email to the district, obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request, MEA UniServ Director Sandy Paesens asked the district to tell the substitute bus driver that he could no longer be allowed to work for the district "unless he fills out the required paperwork to become a bargaining unit member."
Matt Lewis, director of finance and human resources for Wyoming Public Schools, responded to Paesens by saying that the district cannot compel the bus driver to join the union or pay dues.
"Many days we don't have enough substitute drivers to fill routes, so I struggle to see how he is taking work away from individuals who are compliant with union paperwork requirements," Lewis wrote.
Paesens said that the driver was doing bargaining unit work and was not a union member. "We have a closed shop," Paesens wrote.
"I will not terminate his employment," Lewis responded. "He is a sub driver taking work from no one. We cannot find enough sub drivers, so he's not even taking work from a prospective union member; no one is applying for the sub jobs."
Paesens did not return a request seeking comment.
"Right-to-work saved this bus driver's job," said Audrey Spalding, education policy director at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. "It's spiteful that the union tried to get him fired for not paying dues."
The Wyoming Public Schools Board of Education ratified the union contract on March 22, 2013 before the right-to-work law became effective. However, the school district contends that the union can still not use "force, intimidation or unlawful threats to compel public employees to become or remain members of a labor organization or refrain from joining," Lewis said in an email.
"In other words, we are a closed shop, but the district cannot threaten termination of an employee who refuses to pay union dues," Lewis said.