News Story

'Simon Says': Teacher Union Toys with Members Wanting Out, Demands Requests Go to 'Stealth' P.O. Box

Judge has already ruled the one-month window MEA allows for resignations to be illegal

In an apparent effort to make it even more difficult or even stop school employees from exercising their right under right-to-work to not pay union dues or fees, the state’s largest teachers union has quietly set up an obscure post office box address to which members must send the required opt-out paperwork. It's P.O. Box 51 East Lansing, MI 48826.

Based on a letter the Michigan Education Association sent to members who had tried to get out, and discussions with some of them, resignation requests sent to the regular union headquarters address will not be honored.

An extensive search of the union's websites found references to the post office box address on just one page of MEA's main website, and on one affiliate union’s website. There is no record of this post office box address existing before this month. In the past, union members who wanted to opt out just had to send notification to the address of the MEA's headquarters in East Lansing.

The Michigan Education Association didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

The MEA only allows school employees to opt out of paying dues or fees during the month of August, a practice that a Michigan judge has ruled is illegal. Actual enforcement of the judge's ruling requires action by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, which has indicated it will comply.

Under the Michigan right-to-work law that took effect in 2013, employees in a unionized workplace must notify the union in writing that they do not wish to pay dues or fees. The obscure post office box appears to be a new barrier to exit, on top of the (apparently illegal) one-month opt-out hurdle. Despite the obstacles, the MEA lost over 5,000 members last year.

The Mackinac Center for Public Policy obtained a letter the MEA sent to school employees who mailed their opt-out notices to the union's regular address, which denied the application because the member did not follow the "proper procedure." One school employee who wanted to opt out confirmed to the Mackinac Center that the MEA said the opt-out request would not be honored unless it was sent to the mystery post office box.

“Perhaps the stampede of school employees wanting to leave makes the union feel a need to set up a whole new separate post office box just to handle the volume,” said Derk Wilcox, an attorney with the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation. “But the MEA isn't allowed to toy with school employees by playing a shell game with resignations. The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation is prepared to demonstrate this in court — yet again — to ensure that teachers are not blocked from exercising their rights under the law.”

MEA members who wish to find out more about union membership, or who wish to opt out, can do so easily at the website

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.