News Story

'Worst Fears' of MEA Realized as Teachers Leave

Union president's greatest fear was losing 'thousands' of members — another 5K left in August

In a video last year discussing the first year of the right-to-work law, Michigan Education Association President Steve Cook said his greatest fear was losing “thousands” of union members. That was after the group withheld information about how its members could opt out of the union.

Cook said in the video he talked to former United Auto Workers President Bob King who told him unions maintain about 94 to 95 percent of membership in right-to-work states. Cook said that wasn’t bad but added that the MEA’s claims of losing only 1 percent of membership proved they were not inept.

Fast forward a year. The MEA’s August-only opt out rule was more advertised, with teachers being notified by email that if they wanted to leave their union, they had to do so in August. The MEA revealed that while only 1,500 members had left their union in the first year of right-to-work, another 8,000 members were delinquent paying their dues. Many of those members said they knew nothing about the August-only opt-out window. The union sent some of those members to collection agencies.

And when the second August opt-out session under the right-to-work law was over, the MEA realized its “biggest fear” – another 5,000 members had dropped.

The MEA has 110,000 active members, but according to an evaluation of union contracts, only 60,000 teachers were eligible to leave the union last month since many districts rushed to extend their already-existing contracts by years so employees couldn’t opt out under right-to-work.

And earlier this month, Administrative Law Judge Julia C. Stern ruled that members of the MEA can resign from the union at any time of the year, adding that the MEA has been violating the law by enforcing its August window. Cook said in a radio interview that the August opt-out window was still valid while the MEA was in the process of appealing it. He said the process could take years to be resolved.

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.