Court of Appeals Orders Wayne County Circuit Court to Hear Claim Related to Union’s End Run of Right-to-Work

‘The merits are clear. The union and school district violated the law and thumbed their noses at the legislature.’

For Immediate Release
Thursday, April 9, 2015

Contact:
Derk Wilcox
Mackinac Center Legal Foundation Senior Attorney
734-205-8601

MIDLAND — A three judge panel ruled in favor of three Taylor teachers who want the Wayne County Circuit Court to decide whether their union and school district illegally entered into a 10‑year separate security agreement aimed at avoiding Michigan’s right-to-work law for a decade.

In February of 2013, the Taylor Federation of Teachers Local 1085 and the Taylor School District not only agreed on a collective bargaining agreement, but also a 10‑year side clause that locks teachers into paying the union for 10 years.

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation filed suit that same month. The case involves three Taylor teachers: Angela Steffke, Rebecca Metz and Nancy Rhatigan. They say this agreement violates their freedom to decide whether they want to financially support the union under Michigan’s right-to-work law. The trial court had dismissed the entire case, claiming it had no jurisdiction.

The Court of Appeals said the Wayne County Circuit Court should decide whether the school board and union’s actions keep future school boards from changing the policies established by the current board. It held that two other claims should be heard at the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC).

Derk Wilcox, senior attorney for the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, which is providing representation for the teachers says, “The merits are clear. The union and school district violated the law and thumbed their noses at the legislature.”

Recognizing the jurisdiction complexity created by the union’s scheme, the foundation filed a separate, but related matter at MERC challenging the same conduct. MERC ruled in favor of the teachers saying the 10-year side agreement was an attempt at “imposing a lengthy financial burden on bargaining unit members, in order to avoid the application of a state law for ten years, is arbitrary, indifferent and reckless.” The union and school district have appealed MERC’s decision.

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation is weighing its legal options in light of the most recent ruling.

“The forums may change, but the facts don’t. The union and school district’s underhanded plan to thwart teachers’ rights will fail,” said Wilcox.

 

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