An official from a Michigan union that bullied members who opted out under the state's right-to-work law by printing their names in its online newsletter is now saying they have had to abandon local public school bargaining units for lack of support.

In its winter 2013 newsletter, Operating Engineers Local 324 used the derogatory term “freeloaders” to identify 19 members who had opted out of the union under the right-to-work law. At that time, Business Manager Doug Stockwell said the union had “weathered the storm” with right-to-work.

Michigan Capitol Confidential broke that story and it went on to receive national media attention.

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By the summer of 2014, that list of “freeloaders” had grown to 503 members. And Stockwell’s tone had changed. Now, the union official talked about “walking away” from public school bargaining units that simply no longer wanted to support their union.

“[W]e are now just starting to feel the effects of the Right to Work legislation,” Stockwell wrote in the Summer 2014 newsletter. “There comes a point in time where it is just not cost effective to continue to support a bargaining unit that does not support the Union that represents it. With that being said, we have had to make the difficult decision to walk away from representation of several of these public school groups as we simply cannot afford to do so without any dues money being paid in to cover legal and other representation costs.”

But another union tells a completely different story under right-to-work.

In 2012, the Roscommon Teachers Association decertified from the Michigan Education Association and became an independent union. After two years under right-to-work, Roscommon Teachers Association President Jim Perialas said that at the next meeting they are expected to certify that all 67 teachers are union members. Perialas said three teachers left the union in 2013 but came back this year. Perialas said the union didn’t publicize that the three members left.

“We don’t treat them as members gone forever. We do what we can to try them win them back,” Perialas said. “We feel we provide a great benefit for our members and nobody is forcing them to be a part of our union.”

Perialas said this year the union voted to lower dues from $600 to $500 a year.

Michigan Education Association President Steve Cook has continually referred to union members who opted out as “freeloaders.” The MEA has also sent collection agencies after union members who haven’t paid their dues. Last year, 10 percent of teachers eligible to opt out of the MEA under right-to-work did so, and another 8 percent did the same this year.

F. Vincent Vernuccio, director of labor policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said Operating Engineers Local 324 “should be talking about the benefits it gives its members instead of trying to intimidate and harass them. Under right-to-work the good unions will continue to thrive and possibly pick up numbers. The bad unions would rather intimidate their membership than prove their worth.”

Gary Casteel, the southern region director for the United Auto Workers, was quoted in The Washington Post over the summer saying he preferred organizing workers in states with right-to-work laws.

"This is something I've never understood, that people think right-to-work hurts unions," Casteel told The Post. "To me, it helps them. You don't have to belong if you don't want to. So if I go to an organizing drive, I can tell these workers, 'If you don't like this arrangement, you don't have to belong.' Versus, 'If we get 50 percent of you, then all of you have to belong, whether you like to or not.' I don't even like the way that sounds, because it's a voluntary system, and if you don't think the system is earning its keep, then you don't have to pay."

Patrick Semmens, vice president of the National Right To Work Legal Defense Foundation, said: “For decades, union officials have relied on coercion to survive. Right-to-Work should serve as a wakeup call and encourage them to be more responsive to their members’ needs. Just like every other institution that relies on voluntary support, if they cannot get by, then they need to change what they do. No one blames the customers if a store goes out of business, so why should union bosses blame workers if the union fails to attract members?”

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See also:

'They Are a Bureaucratic Machine That Got Out of Control' 

Disrespect, Bullying Convinces Paraeducator That Union Not Interested In Its Members

Bipartisan Senate Panel To Investigate Possible MEA Right-to-Work Violations

Teachers Sue MEA To Escape Union

Union Threatens Hall of Fame Coach With Legal Action For Not Paying Dues

Teacher Who Never Wanted Union Representation Still Forced To Be a Member

MEA Sends Collections Agency After Another Member Trying to Leave

MEA Sends Credit Agency After Teacher Who Stopped Paying Dues

Union Website Wans About Bullying, Members Who Opt Out Report Being Bullied

Hospital Union Resorts To Intimidation Tactics Against Workers Who Opt Out

Union Bullies Workers Exercising Their Rights

Union Tries To Shame Ex-Members

Who's the Freeloader? MEA Spends More On Benefits Than Bargaining



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Right-to-Work Makes Unions Stronger