News Story

Attorney General: School District Violating State Law By Automatically Deducting Union Dues

Wayne-Westland says appeals process not exhausted

The Wayne-Westland Community Schools district automatically deducts union dues from employee paychecks, which the Michigan Attorney General's office says is a violation of state law.

An attorney representing Wayne-Westland said the district can do it because the appeals process in an Ingham County court case involving dues deduction hasn’t been exhausted yet.

Public Act 53 of 2012, which made it illegal for school districts to take union dues out of the paychecks for school employee unions, has been challenged twice in court since it became effective March 16, 2012. Both courts ruled against the unions.

The legal issues became complicated when U.S. District Court Judge Denise Page Hood issued a preliminary injunction on June 5, 2012. On May 9, 2013, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Judge Hood's decision, and on July 10, 2013, Judge Hood dissolved the injunction.

What wasn't as clear was what happened to those districts that passed collective bargaining contracts during the 13 months Judge Hood's injunction was in place.

Wayne-Westland ratified new contracts for eight union groups just before the March 28, 2013, deadline when the right-to-work law became effective.

The state Attorney General took the stance that those contracts signed during the injunction should have to abide by PA 53.

The Attorney General's stance was seconded by an Ingham County Judge in March.

That's when several unions in the Lansing School District filed their own case in Ingham County Circuit Court challenging the legality of PA 53. On March 28, Judge William Collette ruled contracts signed during the injunction had to abide by PA 53.

John Gierak, the attorney for Wayne-Westland Community Schools, cited the status of the case in Ingham County Circuit Court as the reason the district was still automatically deducting dues for the union.

In an email, Gierak said the judge allowed for an appeal and that the judge's order would not be enforceable during the appeal. On April 28, the unions filed a motion for reconsideration and the judge hadn't acted on that appeal as of yet, Gierak said.

"We will be advising the district's board of education with respect to the Ingham County Circuit Court case in the near future," Gierak said.

The Attorney General's office said the Wayne-Westland contract violates the law.

"Any collective bargaining agreements entered, amended or otherwise modified to authorize a public school employer to use public resources to deduct dues and fees for labor organizations from public school employees would violate the law," said Joy Yearout, a spokeswoman for the state Attorney General.

Patrick Wright, senior legal analyst for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said the law is two years old and two courts have rejected challenges to it.

"It is past time for the district to actually follow it," Wright said.

The Michigan Education Association has set up electronic deductions for its members via a credit card or bank account.


See also:

Court Rules School Districts Cannot Use Public Resources To Withhold Union Dues

Union Will Use 'Any Legal Means' To Combat Members Who Want To Leave

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

House Votes To Ban Automatic Dues Deductions For School Unions