News Story

Teachers Union On Supreme Court Janus Ruling: ‘Women And Minorities Hardest Hit’

Assertion based on mistaken reading of Michigan’s right-to-work law

The president of the American Federation of Teachers implied that the Mackinac Center for Public Policy is sexist and racist for not targeting police and firefighters in a campaign to educate public employees about their newly recognized right to opt out of paying dues and fees to a union.

“I didn’t see the Mackinac Center get every single police officer and every firefighter and try to get them to drop from their union,” AFT President Randi Weingarten said, according to Governing.com, a website that caters to state and local government officials.

The comment appears to refer to the Mackinac Center’s outreach activities to union members following the 2012 passage of Michigan's right-to-work law, which did not apply to police and fire employees. Other public employees, including teachers, are covered by the Michigan law, however, and the Mackinac Center has been active in educating these individuals about their right to not pay union dues and fees under that law.

The exception that exists in Michigan law for public safety employees is not contained in the decision handed down on June 28 by the U.S. Supreme court in the case of Janus v. AFSCME. The effect of the ruling is that all state and local government employees nationwide — including police and firefighters — are no longer required to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.

The Mackinac Center is now part of a nationwide campaign to educate these workers about their newly recognized right to opt out of paying a union. The campaign includes a website, My Pay My Say, intended to help union members opt out, and it includes information about police and firefighter unions in every state.

The story on Governing.com was titled, “The Janus Ruling Is a Blow to Public Unions. It’s Especially Bad for Black Women.”

The article cited an analysis by the union-funded Economic Policy Institute that claimed the Janus v. AFSCME ruling could have an “especially bad impact” on black women. The Supreme Court voted 5-4 in favor of Janus, and it based its decision on government workers’ right to free speech.

The most acute impact, the article stated, could be felt in public schools, where there are more black women than in the public safety unions.

“What’s amazing is that the right wing has set its sights on public-sector unions when at this moment they are disproportionately female and disproportionately people of color,” Weingarten said in the article. “It’s pretty offensive.”

Later, Weingarten was quoted as saying the Mackinac Center didn’t target police and firefighters, but only schoolteachers.

Weingarten didn’t realize, apparently, that the Mackinac Center’s efforts focused on teachers in Michigan because police and fire unions were not covered by the state’s right-to-work law.

Now that the Janus decision extends right-to-work status to public safety employees, they are included in the educational campaign.

The American Federation of Teachers did not respond to an email seeking comment.