MEA Ordered to Stop Violating School Employees’ Right-to-Work Law Rights
By a unanimous vote on Wednesday, the Michigan Employment Relations Commission ruled that the Michigan Education Association’s attempt to restrict school employees' rights under right-to-work violates state labor law and is an unfair labor practice. The MEA, which exercised the restriction under a so-called August window, is the state’s largest teachers union. It is expected to appeal the decision in the courts.
The ruling is the latest development in a 2013 lawsuit brought by four Saginaw public school employees who did not want to be forced to financially support the union as a condition of employment.
The August window is an internal MEA rule that only allows school employees to choose not to pay annual union dues or fees if they submit a request in writing during the month of August. Wednesday’s ruling by the employment commission upheld a September 2014 legal finding by Administrative Law Judge Julia Stern, who said that a union’s private bylaws do not override state law, specifically Michigan’s new right-to-work law.
The case began when Jason LaPorte, Susan Romska, Kathy Eady-Miskiewicz and Matthew Knapp asserted that the union threatened to turn them over to a collections agency when they informed it that they would exercise their right to opt out of paying dues — but did so in months other than August. The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation represented the four school employees.
The employment commission also ordered the MEA to cease and desist from enforcing its rule. It also said the MEA must either strike the rule from its bylaws or amend the bylaws to reflect the ruling. In addition, it ordered the union to stop pursuing collection of union dues from members based on their having left the union outside of the August window.
“If a union is doing a good job and its members are happy with the service it provides, it shouldn’t have to resort to turning the names of those who no longer want to be union members over to collections agencies,” said Patrick Wright, director of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation.
“Unions do a lot of things,” Wright continued. “They take many policy positions and are involved with many issues at the local district level. Their members should have the right to instantaneously say. ‘Enough is enough; I no longer want to be part of the union.’”
After the employment commission announced its ruling, the MEA posted the following on its website, attributed to union President Steve Cook.
“Only about 2 percent of MEA members resigned this year, a significant reduction over last August’s resignation window. It’s clear that the vast majority of our members are sticking with us, despite the efforts of the Mackinac Center and other extreme right-wing groups to divide our members from their union through continued political attacks on public education.”
“MEA is proud to stand up for our members and help make their voices heard when it comes to decisions that affect the learning conditions of students and the working conditions of school employees. MERC’s decision does nothing to change that.”
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.