News Story

Lawsuit Filed Against MEA Over Dues Policies, 'Fair Representation'

Novi teacher joins others from across the state suing the MEA to try to get out of the union

Susan Bank has spent 39 years working in education and paid thousands of dollars to the Michigan Education Association over the years.

But when the middle school special education teacher expressed an interest in getting out of the union and was told a collection agency would come after her if she didn’t pay her dues, she said she’d had enough.

The Novi teacher now is suing to get out of the union. The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation today filed a lawsuit in Oakland County Circuit Court on her behalf. Bank is suing the MEA because the union has a "duty of fair representation" but did not treat her fairly because it did not inform her of the rule she could only resign her membership in August, said Patrick Wright, director of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation.

Additionally, the union’s "membership application" serves as permission to allow for dues deduction, but does not bind employees to pay annual dues to the MEA, Wright said.

"The union has contended that the 'membership application' wasn't a collective bargaining matter, but rather a matter between parties," he said. "She wants to be certain she is heard on this matter."

Collective bargaining disputes are handled by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission.

At an unfair labor practice hearing Wednesday at MERC related to a different group of teachers suing the MEA, the union presented a new dues collection policy, which outlines how the MEA will use a collection agency to go after members who are 90 days past due in paying.

If the MEA sticks to its policy, it will be busy.

Michigan Education Association Executive Director Gretchen Dziadosz said at the hearing that 8,000 of its 112,000 members are not paying dues. In November, the MEA testified in front of the Senate Compliance and Accountability Committee that 1,000 members had opted out of the union and no longer were paying dues.  

Bank testified at that hearing and said she thought not turning in the paperwork that allowed the union to automatically deduct dues electronically made it clear she wanted out of the union. The Senate committee was formed to investigate whether the MEA was complying with Michigan's right-to-work law.

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation also is representing a group of teachers from across the state in unfair labor practice complaints filed at MERC. Those cases are ongoing.

Bank has been with the Novi Community School District for 12 years and previously was a principal in the Redford Union Schools.

The MEA did not respond to a request for 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.