News Story

House Votes to Ban Automatic Dues Deductions For School Unions

Eight Republicans vote to continue using school resources for government union funding

Every year, about 150,000 public school employees have their union dues paid through payroll deduction by their district. In 2010, that amounted to $65.5 million that went to the Michigan Education Association. Such a collection method is a stipulation that public school districts allow to be included in union contracts, but it is one the Michigan House of Representatives wants to end.

The state House recently passed 2011 House Bill 4929, which would ban using public school resources to deduct union dues.

The bill passed 55 to 53, with all of the "no" votes coming from Democrats, as well as eight Republicans: Reps. Ben Glardon, R-Owosso, Kenneth Horn, R-Frankenmuth, Earl Poleski, R-Jackson, Holly Hughes, R-Montague, Sharon Tyle, R-Niles, Deb Shaughnessy, R-Charlotte,  Kenneth Kurtz, R-Coldwater, and Paul Muxlow, R-Brown City.

If the bill becomes law, teachers would still owe and be legally required to pay the union dues unless other state laws were changed to make teacher union membership voluntary. If that were to occur, the union itself would have to collect the fees that go into its pocket, much as if it were the cable company collecting a monthly bill.

In Grand Rapids recently, about 100 teachers stopped paying union dues to the Grand Rapids Education Association once automatic payroll deductions were removed temporarily after the contract between the union and the district expired. A few were sued by the MEA.

Patrick Wright, director of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, said the issue could become a public relations problem for the MEA.

“Do you sue your own members?” Wright asked. “Do you try to get your own members fired?”

Mackinac Center President Joseph G. Lehman said that any business with $65 million in billings would have to hire a dedicated staff to do nothing but collect payments.

“How are they going to collect if they have to collect it themselves? Teacher by teacher?” Lehman said in an email. “But the MEA is not a regular business. They are taking money from people who have no choice (other than unemployment) but to pay. How much harder is it to collect from people who: 1) Don’t have to pay (under teacher Right To Work or lack of a union security clause) and 2) Don’t want to pay (an unknown number of teachers who simply don’t want to pay the union for whatever reason.)”

Lehman said it could translate into significant additional costs to the MEA and the possibility of the loss of millions of dollars from those teachers who just won’t pay.

Amber McCann, spokeswoman for State Senate Majority Speaker Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, didn’t respond to messages or emails asking if Richardville would support stopping automatic payroll deduction for public school unions.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.