News Story

School Districts Will Soon No Longer Be Responsible For Deducting Teacher Union Dues

13 Republican Legislators voted against the bill to stop the use of tax dollars for union dues withdrawal

Legislation that would prohibit local school districts across the state from collecting union dues directly from employee paychecks is headed to Gov. Rick Snyder for his signature.

House Bill 4929 had been sitting in the Senate since last year and efforts in December to move it out of committee failed. But it gained traction March 7, a day after a coalition of unions announced a far-reaching proposal to lock public sector union bargaining advantages into the Michigan Constitution.

The Senate Reforms, Restructuring and Reinventing Committee added new provisions to the bill including requiring annual audits of all expenditures attributed to collective bargaining contract administration and grievance adjustments. This was added to try and determine how much of the dues that is collected is used for collective bargaining and how much is used for political activities.

The Senate committee also added a $100,000 appropriation to the bill to pay for the audits and in doing so made the legislation referendum-proof. The Senate then passed the bill on a 20-18 vote. It passed the House 56-54. No Democrats in either chamber voted for the bill.

A spokesman for Gov. Snyder said the governor intends to sign the bill into law. 

"It really prioritizes that the focus of our school administration has to be on teaching the kids," said Rep. Joe Haveman, R-Holland, the sponsor of the bill. "Let's get out of the business of collecting bills for other people."

Michigan Education Association President Steven Cook said he thinks the passage of House Bill 4929 was in response to the union proposal.

"I simply don't believe that it is coincidence that this legislation, which has sat for months in the Senate, passed one day after a coalition of workers stood up for themselves and launched a petition drive to place a constitutional amendment to protect collective bargaining on the November ballot," Cook was quoted as having said. "It is blatant retaliation against one group of workers who insist on standing up, making their voices heard and fighting back against the attacks on collective bargaining, public education and the middle class."

Amber McCann, spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, denied that the timing of the bill's passage was linked to the union coalition's announcement of its proposal.

"The bill had existed long before they filed their petition language,” McCann said. "It was something on the minds of caucus members for quite some time."

Senate Republicans who voted against the bill were Senators Tom Casperson, R-Escanaba; Bruce Caswell, R-Hillsdale; Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton; Mike Green, R-Mayville; Mike Nofs, R-Battle Creek; and John Proos, R- St Joseph.

House Republicans who voted against the bill were Representatives: Ben Glardon, R-Owosso; Joe Graves, R-Argentine Township; Kenneth Horn, R-Frankenmuth; Paul Muxlow, R-Brown City; Earl Poleski, R-Jackson; Deb Shaughnessy, R-Charlotte; and Sharon Tyler, R-Niles.

“I do not believe taxpayer dollars should be used to fund the administration of union operations,” Sen. Proos said. “I opposed this measure because it singles out the teachers and school employee unions.

“We should be requiring all unions to conduct their business without utilizing taxpayer dollars,” Sen. Proos said. “This legislation fails to make this reform because it refers only to the MEA and treats one industry different than all the rest.”

Sen. Colbeck agreed.

“I've been pushing for it to be applied to all public employers. That's why I submitted Senate Bill 938, which would do that,” Sen. Colbeck said. “I believe our laws should apply to all, and we shouldn't make exceptions.

“The vote was a tough vote for me to take,” Sen. Colbeck said. “I can assure you that I'm no friend of the MEA.”

Sens. Casperson and Caswell also pointed to the fact that House Bill 4929 singled out some groups, while not impacting others as the reason they voted no.

“I voted no because I'm concerned that this just targets one group,” Sen. Casperson said. “I can't defend it if it's just for one group. If it's good for one group, it's good for all groups.

“My position is to make it be for all of them, or don't do it at all,” Sen. Caswell said

Sen. Green had a different explanation.

“I couldn't see how this was going to help the kids,” Sen. Green said. “My impression was that this was more about just sticking our finger in the eyes of the MEA. I'm not a big fan of the MEA and on a lot of bills I've voted with the rest of my caucus. But I just didn't feel comfortable supporting this one.”

The bill having been limited just teacher unions was also the reason Reps. Shaughnessy and Glarden said they opposed it.

“I voted no on this despite the fact that I am very disappointed with many of the actions the MEA has taken,” Rep. Shaughnessy said. “If I was going to vote based on getting back at the MEA I might have voted differently. But I have a policy obligation. I wanted this to cover all of the groups, not just the teacher unions.”

Rep. Glardon concurred.

“My major heartburn on this is not that I dispute the general concept,” Rep. Glardon said. “My problem with it is that it's only targeting one group instead of all public employees.”

Rep. Tyler said she also had concerns about other aspects of House Bill 4929.

“There were several reasons I voted against this bill,” Rep. Tyler said. “The first is that I believe it would be unfair to implement this change on only one group of state workers. If a reform such as this is to be made, I would also like to see legislation which would extend it to every state employee.

“I am also apprehensive about the $100,000 appropriation that was included with this bill,” she said. “ While I am concerned about the financial burden on individual citizens, I want to make sure that the state continues to use taxpayer money in the wisest manner possible.”

Rep. Muxlow said the bill didn't meet his criteria for voting yes. He also said he sensed that the motivation behind it was provocative.

“The thing I'm always looking for is how something is going to save money,” Rep. Muxlow said. “I don't see where this bill would do that. I asked how much money this would save. In reply I heard things like nothing, or 25 cents and so on.

“In addition, I think it's something that was being done that was provocative. I didn't come here to be provocative.”

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.