News Story

School Union Asks For Members' Bank Account, Credit Card Numbers to Guarantee Dues Payments

Plymouth-Canton cafeteria association wants to ensure payment from 'voluntary' members

A union president's letter shows one school employee union planned to handle automatic dues collection of its members by demanding full payment at the start of the year or requiring its members to give a checking or savings account number or credit card for automatic monthly withdrawals.

Debbie Bence, president of the Plymouth-Canton Cafeteria Association, sent a letter to her union members on June 4 stating that the dues had to be paid as a condition of employment.

Bence said the financial information would be kept confidential and kept at the Michigan Education Association headquarters. News reports state that uinon dues to the MEA are capped at $778 a year.

Bence and MEA Spokesman Doug Pratt haven’t returned messages seeking comment.

Public Act 53 became effective March 16 and prohibited union dues from being automatically deducted from payroll. However, one day after Bence’s letter was dated, a federal judge issued a preliminary injunction that blocked the law until the legal process plays out.

John Ellsworth, a teacher in the Grand Ledge Public Schools and former union president, said his union hasn’t required a checking or savings account number or credit card to pay dues. Ellsworth said he thinks that is just how one union planned to handle dues collection if PA 53 went into effect and was not initiated by the MEA.

“Teachers are much like the population at large — significantly uninvolved in politics,” Ellsworth said in an email. “Most teachers focus on students and teaching. Paying union dues for a minority is annoying, but for most it is just part of the package of being a teacher. I think if the MEA asks for access to accounts that a sizable number of teachers will refuse.”

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled that a payroll-deduction program for a union’s political action committee violated campaign finance laws. Then the Michigan Senate passed HB 4929 (later became PA 53) on a 20-18 vote that stopped payroll-deduction by a school district for union dues.

U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood issued a preliminary injunction June 5 stopping the bill from taking effect. The Michigan Employment Relations Committee appealed the preliminary injunction and it will be reviewed for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. 

“It is very much a live controversy,” said Patrick Wright, senior legal counsel for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.

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.