News Story

Taylor School District Refuses to Inform Teachers They Don't Have to Financially Support the Union

State ruled a 10-year clause that forced financial support of union was illegal

The Taylor School District has defied an order from the Michigan Employment Relations Commission that schools post a notice stating that teachers are no longer obligated to financially support the union as a condition of employment. The order, which was issued on Feb. 13, came in response to an unfair labor practice complaint by teachers regarding their rights under the Michigan right-to-work law enacted in December 2012.

Angela Steffke is a Taylor teacher who filed suit against both the district and the union. In defiance of the right-to-work law, the district and union entered into a 10-year agreement that required teachers to financially support the union.

Steffke said she hasn’t seen a notice posted by the district or union as of April 13.

“There are over 500 teachers in the Taylor School District who should be informed of their rights,” said Steffke in an email.

“The 10 year security clause was a deliberate attempt by the [local] to avoid losing dues money because of right-to-work,” Steffke wrote. “We sued because we felt that our civil rights were being violated. The courts have given a voice to our complaint about the illegal decade of union servitude rammed down teachers' throats by the threat of a payless payday if the contract was not passed.”

Steffke continued, “The Taylor Federation of Teachers receives well over $410,000 annually in membership dues. They don't want to lose this money. About half of the amount received goes to the Michigan and national AFT. MERC and the Appeals court sided with us allowing us to choose whether we wish to continue paying union dues. If people are happy with their representation and feel they are getting their money’s worth, they will keep paying. If they are unhappy ... now they can do something about it.”

Mark Cousens, the attorney who represents the Taylor School District, did not respond to two emails seeking comment. On April 1, the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation sent Cousens a letter, alerting him that the district hadn’t posted the unfair labor practice notice. Cousens has not responded to the letter.

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation represented three teachers, including Steffke, in their lawsuit against the district and union. The foundation contends that a 10-year agreement between the union and school board that forced teachers to financially support the union that was outside of the regular four-year teachers’ contract was a violation of Michigan’s Public Employment Relations Act.

The Michigan Employment Relations Commission ruled in favor the plaintiffs, and on March 4, the Michigan Court of Appeals denied the district's request for a stay on the commission's ruling.

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation can go through the courts to get the order enforced.


See also:

Union President Receives 'Outstanding Organizing' Award for Shutting Down School to Protest Right-to-Work Law

Attorney: Taylor District Violated Contract Law to Lock in 10-year Union Agreement

Lawsuit Filed to Protect Teachers' Rights

Taylor School District Approves Contract Forcing Teachers to Pay Union