Several teachers at Saginaw Public Schools have filed charges with the Saginaw Education Association and Michigan Education Association for unfair labor practices regarding the “August Window” – a period of time the unions claim is the only time teachers can opt-out of the union.
Four teachers say, after a May appeals court ruling that said unions cannot use public resources to collect union dues, they began to receive correspondence from their union regarding options for how to pay union dues via credit card and automatic deduction from their bank accounts.
At the beginning of the school year, these teachers say they began inquiring about opting-out of the union under Michigan’s new right-to-work law. They were told by their local union leaders that the time period to opt out is limited to the month of August.
Frustrated, this group contacted the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation for information on how to fight for their right of association.
One of the teachers is Matt Knapp. He teaches art at Ruben Daniels Middle School. He says he disagrees with the way the union treats its members and that he disagrees with their internal and external politics. “I’ve not been a large supporter of the union to begin with. And when the right-to-work action passed, I was excited about it,” said Knapp. “I was not notified about a deadline. I’m trying to leave the union gracefully if they will let me. I think that the union’s responsibility is to fight for the right of the worker, and my right is to not be part of the union.”
Susan Romska, a geometry teacher at Arthur Hill High School, says she wants out because of the politics of the union. “It’s not what I believe in, and I believe that everyone should have the right to join an organization or to opt-out whenever they feel like it."
Kathy Eady-Miskiewicz, a 10th grade English teacher at Arthur Hill, objects to the lack of service and representation from her dues. She says the union gave her plenty of information about how to pay her dues, but “not one word” about having to opt-out in August. “After all the thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of dollars that we’ve paid them over the years of our careers, that’s just plain wrong. I don’t want to be forced to be part of an organization that I’ve never believed in.”
Jason LaPorte, a social studies teacher at Arthur Hill, wants out of the union as well. He says many teachers expressed frustration after a standard union meeting where teachers brought up the issue of getting out of the union, and the union president introduced the “August Window” limitation for the first time. “One of the things at the meeting that didn’t set well with people was how our union president came out and said they purposefully did not notify members how to withdraw from the union. That was a breaking point for a lot of people about how it was handled or mishandled.”
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