To understand why school employee labor unions are likely to spend millions of dollars to maintain Michigan's constitutional ban on K-12 tuition vouchers and tax credits, it is important to assess how school choice might affect the financial and political power of the Michigan Education Association (MEA) and the Michigan Federation of Teachers (MFT).
This Mackinac Center study examines the unionization rates of teachers in Michigan's three formal systems of education: traditional government schools; charter schools; and private schools. Because the ability to attract, retain, and increase membership is critical to the financial power and political influence of any labor union, the purpose of this research was to determine the current rates of unionization among teachers and illustrate how a shift of students and teachers to non-unionized schools might impact school employee labor unions.
The findings of this study reveal that school employee labor unions have organized only a tiny fraction of Michigan charter and private school teachers, but they have unionized all of Michigan's traditional government school teachers. These facts demonstrate that school employee unions including the MEA and MFT have strong incentives to maintain the status quo and oppose efforts to expand parents' ability to choose the safest and best schools for their children. In the short term, school choice may negatively affect the financial and political power of school employee labor unions if more students' and teachers' move from unionized to non-unionized schools. In the long term, however, school choice could benefit unions that commit to changing the way they organize teachers and influence government schooling in Michigan.