Until the MEA changes to become more of a professional teachers association, teachers may not want to join or financially support the union.

Although few teachers know it, and even fewer collective bargaining agreements mention it, a teacher cannot be required to join a union or pay dues that are used for any non-collective bargaining activity, such as politics or "image building." The only obligation that teachers have to the union under a union security clause is to pay that portion of the dues that is related to union representation. By tendering such dues, neither the union nor the school administration may discriminate against the teacher in any way relating to his or her employment. This includes work assignments, working conditions, and participation in committees or other activities.

A teacher who exercises this constitutional right to refrain from joining the union is entitled to a refund of any dues spent on political or ideological causes. The U.S. Supreme Court held in Chicago Teachers Union v Hudson that certain procedural steps must be taken by the union in order to justify levying dues onto nonmembers:

  • member must be given an accounting of the union’s basis for calculating the representation fee;

  • The dissenter’s representation fee must be placed in an interest-bearing escrow account unless a CPA has verified the expenses;

  • If the fee schedule is verified by a CPA, the union may elect to escrow only that portion of expenditures which an objector could reasonably challenge and retain the remainder; and,

  • The procedure must provide for a "reasonably prompt decision by an impartial decisionmaker" to confirm the nature of the challenged union expenditures and guarantee that the dues have been used for permissible purposes.

By becoming a nonmember of the union, the right to participate in internal union affairs—such as voting in union elections or running for union office—and some benefits offered by the union to their members (credit union membership, teacher liability insurance, etc.) may be sacrificed. However, the union must still represent the nonmember without discrimination, and all employment benefits negotiated by the union must include the nonmember.

To exercise the right to a dues rebate, a letter should be sent to the union giving notice that the teacher wishes to exercise his or her right to become a nonmember. The union must also be notified that the teacher wishes to exercise all the rights of a nonmember to a full accounting of dues and a refund of any dues not allocated in furtherance of collective bargaining within the immediate unit. A sample letter is provided below.

If you are a public school employee, please feel free to contact the Mackinac Center for Public Policy at (989) 631-0900 if you have any questions regarding your legal rights or the process of exercising them.

Sample Letter

The following sample letter is sent to the labor union. It highlights the important points that should be included to exercise the right to a dues rebate. A copy of the letter should be sent to the employer.

_____________________

(Today’s Date here)

(Union President’s Name)
(Union Address)

Dear Sir or Madam:

In accordance with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decisions in Abood v Detroit Board of Education, and pursuant to the First and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution, I hereby announce that I am resigning my union membership and object to the use of my dues money for any purposes other than those related to collective bargaining, contract administration and grievance processing in my immediate bargaining unit. Any fees that are not related to these financial core activities should be immediately deducted from my dues, pursuant to the procedures outlined by the U.S. Supreme Court in Chicago Teachers Union v Hudson and any other relevant cases.

I wish to exercise my rights to a full accounting performed by an independent auditor, a reasonably prompt opportunity to challenge any fees before an impartial decisionmaker, and insist that any disputed fees be placed in escrow pending a final determination as to the appropriateness of any asserted charges.

Please provide me with an accounting as soon as possible. Until such time as an accounting is provided to me, please escrow all of my dues that are not subject to an immediate rebate. Additionally, if there will be any delay in obtaining a full accounting, please advise me as to when this information will be forthcoming.

Sincerely,



(Name)
(Address)
(School’s Name)