News Story

Union Sought Workplace Monopoly, Cries ‘Involuntary Servitude’ When Worker Chooses Not To Join

The union agreed to represent everyone but now doesn’t want to

A union that sought and obtained the exclusive right to represent employees in workplace grievances complains it is being forced to represent an employee, who is not a union member, against its will.

The union is called the Technical, Professional, and Officeworkers Association of Michigan, and it said in a February court brief that having to represent an employee who chooses not to pay union dues “is tantamount to government ... forcing the Union into involuntary servitude."

The brief was written for a case that involves Michigan’s 2013 right-to-work law and Daniel Renner, a Saginaw County groundkeeper. Renner is not a union member but his terms of employment are set by the same union collective bargaining agreement that covers dues-paying employees in his workplace. The case is before the Michigan Supreme Court.

Renner resigned his union membership in 2017, as permitted by Michigan's right-to-work law, which means he no longer needs to pay union dues. The union subsequently barred him from attending workplace union meetings and voting on workplace union matters.

But when Renner tried to file a formal grievance complaint on his own behalf over a 2018 employer reprimand he was blocked from doing so due to his being covered by grievance procedures in the union contract. The contract presumes the union will represent all employees in such matters, but when Renner approached a union official about this, the union demanded payment to do so.

Steve Delie, a labor policy analyst at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, explained the problem with this: The union voluntarily sought out the role of being the exclusive representative for every employee in this workplace, but now it only wants to serve those who choose to pay dues. When negotiating this contract, union officials understood it would obligate them to represent all members of the bargaining unit fairly, even if they are not members.

Renner’s options are limited to what is in the union contract. He is required to use the union’s grievance process, and the union now wants to charge him despite the duty it sought of representing all the employees in this workplace.

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.