News Story

University Staff Breaks Away From Michigan Education Association

Grand Valley State University vote means union loses another bargaining unit

ALLENDALE — By a nearly 8 to 1 margin, the clerical and technical staff at Grand Valley State University voted to break away from the Michigan Education Association and form its own union.

According to the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, which oversaw the election, 235 of the unit's 266 members voted in favor of an independent union, known as the Alliance of Professional Support Staff. Twenty-four voted to stay with the MEA, while 7 chose "neither."

"We have come a long way with the MEA," said Alliance spokesperson Coreen Bedford, "But we stuck to the facts, pointed out the pros and cons of both options, and the votes spoke for themselves."

The MEA represented one of three bargaining units at the Allendale-based campus. The unit formed in 1974, according to GVSU. The other bargaining units include the Police Officer Labor Council, representing public safety workers and AFSCME, representing grounds keepers. 

The move for clerical and technical workers to form an independent union will save members considerable money, Bedford said. While new dues have yet to be determined, Bedford points out that their unit has paid the MEA more than $1 million.

Bedford said members have been watching the proceedings of the "August Window" dispute in Lansing, but she said she thought people's minds were made up long before then. A Senate committee held hearings late last year about the MEA's practice of only allowing its members to leave during the month of August and whether the union tried to hide that information from members.

"It was just another example of how the MEA is choosing to operate," Bedford said. "You have many layers of politics within that group. Even the Uniserve directors admit they don't have much control over what goes on in Lansing."

Teachers in Roscommon left the MEA in 2012 and formed their own local union.

"Across the state teachers, bus drivers, and clerical workers are standing up and taking matters in their own hands," said F. Vincent Vernuccio, director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. "They are saying the status quo is not working and they deserve a full choice, not just of payment but of representation." 

Vernuccio points out that in addition to Roscommon, similar actions have taken place involving public school workers in Fennville and Dexter.

"The combination of right-to-work and the threat of decertification will make unions serve their members better," Vernuccio said, adding that many union workers have been simply handed a union card with no say if a union, or which union, should represent them.

Officials from the MEA did not respond to a request for comment.

Editor's Note: This story has been slightly edited since its original posting. The MEA affiliate has paid the union $1 million over several years.

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.