The Michigan Education Association has done a reversal on a 3 percent pension contribution its members are required to make, as it now is fighting a clause it originally supported just months ago.
The MEA supported the pension contribution in April when the House of Representatives was voting on Senate Bill 1227.
On April 23, the MEA released a statement saying it supported Senate Bill 1227. Of the 3 percent contribution, the MEA wrote: "The bill would require all school employees to contribute an additional 3 percent of salary above what they currently pay, but the money would be placed into a special trust to fund retirement health benefits. Without this provision, health insurance for you and other future retirees will remain under attack."
However, five MEA members objected to the 3 percent contribution and filed a lawsuit. Judge James Giddings ordered a preliminary injunction requiring the state to escrow the 3 percent contributions until the court settles the matter, according to the MEA.
The MEA members say the pension change is unconstitutional and illegal with no guarantee that the benefits will be available to them upon retirement. In a press release, the MEA president attacked the bill, despite the MEA's encouragement just months earlier.
"School employees have been and are continuing to make sacrifices in these tough budget times," said MEA President Iris K. Salters in the press release.
"But taking an additional 3 percent out of their paychecks to pay for retirement benefits without any guarantee that those benefits will be there is an unconscionable act by legislators - particularly since those same legislators are still guaranteed their own lifetime health benefits after serving only six years in office. This clear attempt to balance the budget on the backs of employees is not only unfair, it's illegal."
MEA Spokesman Doug Pratt didn't immediately return an e-mail seeking explanation for the MEA's change of heart.
Michael Van Beek, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy's director of education policy, discovered the MEA's conflicting views.
"By supporting the House version of this bill, it appears that the MEA would be fine with what they are now calling a contractual violation, as long as it served the overall best interests of their members," Van Beek wrote in an e-mail.