News Story

Union and School Illegally Take Dues from Teachers' Paychecks

Attorney: 'If they’re taking out dues, it’s contrary to state law'

The Armada Area Schools teachers union contract allows for automatic union dues deductions, which is a violation of state law.

The agreement between the Armada Board of Education and the Armada Education Association, which was agreed upon on March 6, 2013, explains how teachers can pay union dues.

“The Service Fee shall not exceed the amount of Association dues collected from Association members,” the agreement says. “The bargaining unit member may authorize payroll deduction for such fee.”

The contract appears to be a violation of Public Act 53 of 2012, which states: “A public school employer’s use of public school resources to assist a labor organization in collecting dues or service fees from wages of public school employees is a prohibited contribution to the administration of a labor organization.”

As a result of a preliminary injunction filed June 11, 2012, the law’s enforcement was suspended for 11 months. The Michigan Court of Appeals overturned the injunction and upheld the law on May 9, 2013.

Michael Musary, the superintendent of Armada Schools, said the district is not violating state law since the contract commenced before the 2012 law took effect.

“The school district is not violating any law,” he said. “Our school board and the union agreed to a 10-year letter of agreement prior to the law going into effect. When our letter of agreement lapses, we will comply with the law.”

But a circuit court decided that if a union contract expired after March 16, 2012, a public entity could not deduct dues for the union. Musary did not respond to follow-up questions.

Armada’s previous contract with teachers lasted until Aug. 31, 2013. The new contract was entered into March 6, 2013 — two months before the injunction was lifted — and lasted until August 2016.

“Any collective agreement entered into, extended, or renewed after March 16, 2012, that requires public school employers to collect union dues or service fees cannot be enforced, even if it was entered into while the injunction was in place,” a Miller Johnson Attorneys blog post from March 2013 read.

Patrick Wright, the vice president for legal affairs at the Mackinac Center, said Armada’s contract is illegal.

“If they’re taking out dues it’s contrary to state law,” he said.

A Freedom of Information Act request by the Mackinac Center found that payroll specialist Diane Aul, an Armada Schools employee, typically sends “a copy of what each teacher is to have withheld each pay” for union dues to the district’s administrative assistant, Cathy Campbell.

The payroll specialist also deducts union fees for the district’s bus drivers, represented by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). The bus drivers’ contract went into effect in 2015.

“[Aul] receives a letter from AFSCME stating what amount the dues are and they are deducted by her,” Campbell said in an email.

The FOIA also found AFSCME sends the district’s bus drivers a form to approve the automatic deduction of union fees from paychecks. The form is then sent to the district’s payroll office. The teachers union doesn’t use such forms and “member deductions is made with our payroll department from an AEA [union] representative,” Campbell said in an email.

As reported in August 2014, the contract between the district and union said teachers are required to pay union dues for nine years despite Michigan's right-to-work law. At the time, Musary said the language in the contract was unenforceable. He said the school board and the union agreed it was “in the best interests of the school district” to leave the language in the contract even though it wasn’t being enforced.

Attorney General Bill Schuette’s office declined to comment.

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.