News Story

Michigan teacher relieved to learn she won’t be pushed back into union

Know your Janus rights: Government employees are exempt from forced unionization

Like many public sector employees, Traci Hopper was unaware that she won’t be forced back into a union after the end of Michigan’s right-to-work law. Hopper has taught in Michigan parochial and public schools for 32 years, and she left the Michigan Education Association soon after Michigan ended forced unionization in 2012.

Hopper currently teaches AP psychology, criminal law and government at Airport High School in Carleton. She also is a sponsor for the YMCA Michigan Youth in Government program, taking students to Lansing, where they engage in a mock senate session.

But even with that concentration in civics, Hopper did not know until Friday that she will retain her right to free association after the repeal of the right-to-work law. While hundreds of thousands of private sector workers will be forced to join and pay unions following the repeal that was pushed through by Gov. Whitmer and legislative Democrats in March, public sector employees are protected under the Supreme Court’s Janus decision.

More than two decades ago, union leadership engaged in a smear campaign to manipulate members, Hopper told Michigan Capitol Confidential. Uncooperative members were subject to rumors spread by union leadership. When Hopper was a witness in a lawsuit involving allegations that union bosses slandered her colleagues, the situation became so tense, she said, that the principal of her school had to assign a police liaison officer in front of the media center where she worked.

Hopper’s husband died, and she remarried. When she moved and started teaching at Airport High School, she was still required by law to pay union dues. Michigan’s right-to-work law had not yet been enacted, while the Supreme Court’s ruling in Janus v. AFSCME was years in the future. Being forced to pay dues, Hopper was determined to stay informed about the union’s doings, and she attended every meeting.

Union leadership’s protection of underperforming or nonperforming teachers, Hopper told CapCon, made it harder on everyone else.

Right-to-work was signed into law in Michigan 2012. She left her union in summer 2013, while the union was negotiating a new contract with her employer.

Hopper was relieved Friday when CapCon informed her of the public sector exemption — though she believes misinformation from the media and organized labor have left many other teachers and public employees ignorant of their rights. The nation’s high court ruled in 2018 that public sector employees are not required to pay union dues as a condition of employment.

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.