News Story

Paraprofessional in Traverse City gets MEA decertified and replaced

Support personnel of Northwest Education Services get new union

A paraprofessional in northern Michigan who left the Michigan Education Association successfully led an effort to decertify the MEA and replace it with a local association.

Mike Williams, who works for Northwest Education Services in Traverse City as an auto repair paraprofessional, left an MEA union for support personnel in December 2022, as CapCon previously reported. His frustration with the MEA led him to spearhead an effort to establish a new union, which the state of Michigan recognized April 30.

Williams had long been dissatisfied with the MEA, which helped secure an hourly raise of only 70 cents per hour between 2007 and 2017. He left the union, rejoined at the request of colleagues, and then was part of the team that negotiated the 2021-24 contract for education support professionals in the intermediate school district. That team negotiated the contract without the help of the state MEA, he said.

The new association, representing roughly 140 employees, will be the new bargaining agent for paraprofessionals and other occupations assisting teachers. The current contract expires June 30.

Williams says he received help from several quarters, including the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which he approached after leaving the MEA for a second time in December. Believing that the MEA did not properly represent him and his colleagues, he asked about laws and policies governing decertification.

Williams began asking state MEA officials in early December about forthcoming contract negotiations and was dissatisfied with the response. The MEA regional representative told him in one message that some members were unhappy with the emails he had sent out to them.

The lack of information, Williams told CapCon, left him wondering about the fate of workers in the bargaining unit. Would the MEA still represent them if they needed to file a grievance, he wondered. Union membership was not strong, he said, with approximately 20 employees having signed up to be members.

Williams said setting up a new union was not easy, adding that he and his colleague made a few mistakes as they navigated the intricacies of labor law. Officials at the Michigan Employment Relations Commission were helpful in answering questions, he said. Tracking down the 140 employees across multiple buildings and doing so outside of work hours was a challenge, he said. Other employees helped out by making trips to the various buildings to contact prospective members of the new association.

In a mail-in election that occurred over several weeks, 25 employees voted to leave the MEA, and 12 voted to stay.

Williams says the association he and his team created requires no union dues.

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.