News Story

School Union Proposes 9-Year Contract To Prevent Members From Exercising Right To Not Pay Dues

Berkley Education Association tries to avoid right-to-work law

The Berkley Education Association is considering a collective bargaining agreement that would run through June 30, 2022 that would prevent its members from having the right to opt out of the union. 

The teachers' union has proposed a 9-year "agency fee agreement" that would give the school district the power to deduct dues from the union member's salary. If deducting dues were to be deemed unlawful, the union member could be fired. And if it were unlawful for the union member to be fired, a clause in the contract would allow the union the right “to pursue any other lawful remedies.”

Locking in the contract change before March 27 would prevent union members from benefiting from the state's new right-to-work law, which gives workers the right to not pay dues or fees as a condition of employment.

The Berkley Education Association isn't the first union to try a 9-year contract extension that would skirt the state's right-to-work laws that allows employees the choice as to whether to join a union. The Western Michigan University Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (WMU-AAUP) also is considering a similar contract provision.  

"Many school boards have been subservient to the unions for so long, we can expect them to pull out all stops to prevent change," said Leon Drolet, chair of the Michigan Taxpayers Alliance. "This is further evidence that school boards don't negotiate with teacher unions, they collude with them. Winning with the legislature doesn't end the fight for change. There are some school boards who are willing to be the last Japanese soldier on the last island fighting World War II."

Michigan Capitol Confidential received a draft of the memo that a law firm was asked to review by an Oakland Schools official. The law firm confirmed they reviewed the proposed agreement.

Berkley School Board President Paul Ellison didn’t respond to a request for comment. School Board Vice President Randy Travis referred comment to the school district spokeswoman.

Berkley School District Spokeswoman Jessica Stilger said in an email: "The Berkley School District administration has an excellent relationship with all bargaining units, and will continue to do so with right-to-work legislation. At the moment, the BEA has presented administration with many proposals and all will be considered. However, union negotiations are ongoing and confidential."

Patrick Wright, senior legal analyst for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, called the tactic legally "questionable."

"If 9-year collective bargaining agreements were such a good idea, why haven't they been done before?" Wright said.

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.