Traditional government schools have the highest teacher unionization rates of any of the three school systems in Michigan. Today, union contracts are in effect in every Michigan school district.3
Michigan's two major school employee labor unions, the MEA and the MFT, have grown markedly in terms of financial strength and political power since the mid-1960s. Much of their growth and influence can be attributed to the fact that teachers or other government school employees who refuse to pay union dues or agency fees can be immediately terminated under the "union security" clauses negotiated into MEA and MFT labor contracts. Such clauses, agreed to by school boards, have contributed to a virtual union monopoly of employee representation in Michigan's traditional government schools. (see "Union Politicization of Michigan's Traditional Government Schools" for more details.)
While labor unions hold sway over the workforce in the state's K-12 traditional government schools, the schools themselves also monopolize Michigan's student population partly because of the school assignment system, whereby children are assigned to a particular government school based on arbitrary political or geographical boundaries. Unionized government schools enroll over 87 percent of the state's student population while private schools educate less than 11 percent (see Table 1 and Chart 1).
Labor unions clearly have a powerful influence over Michigan's traditional government schools and the students who are assigned to them, but how do labor unions affect and influence charter and private schools? Are teachers in these schools-of-choice receptive to unionization?