Mackinac Center Legal Foundation Files Suit in Oakland County on Behalf of 39-Year Teaching Veteran to Prevent MEA Harassment

Union threatens to turn up to 8,000 educators over to collections agency

For Immediate Release
Friday, Feb. 28, 2014
Ted O'Neil
Media Relations Manager

MIDLAND — The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation today filed a lawsuit in Oakland County Circuit Court on behalf of Susan Bank, a special education teacher in the Novi Community School District, against the Michigan Education Association over threats to turn her over to a collections agency for not paying union dues.

“The union failed in its duty of fair representation by not alerting Susan that its bylaws only permit members to resign during the month of August,” said Patrick J. Wright, director of the MCLF. “Obviously we feel that Michigan’s right-to-work law trumps union policy.”

Bank, who has spent 39 years as an educator, testified before the Senate Compliance and Accountability Committee last November after the committee was formed to investigate whether the MEA was complying with Michigan’s right-to-work law. Bank noted at the time that she felt she made it clear that she was opting out of the union when she refused to turn in e-dues paperwork.

The MEA admitted Wednesday during a hearing at the Michigan Employment Relations Commission that it has created a policy to go after about 8,000 teachers who so far have refused to pay their dues in cash or give the union credit card or bank account information as part of its “e-dues” scheme. A federal appeals court rejected the MEA’s attempts last year to block a state law prohibiting school districts from deducting union dues as a payroll function.

“There is no legitimate debt here whereby the MEA can threaten to ruin the credit ratings of thousands of teachers across Michigan,” Wright added. “Under our state’s worker freedom laws, employees in a unionized setting can freely choose whether or not to financially support the union.”

Wright noted that the MEA’s “membership application” simply gave permission to have dues deducted from teachers’ paychecks when that process existed. For those hired more recently, a newer application gives three options for dues payment if teachers so choose to join the union.

“The MEA apparently believes that teachers who signed a membership application form have agreed to pay dues for the lifetime of their employment, absent resigning during the little-known August window, ” he said. “But those agreements don’t have any teeth now under Public Act 53. It’s up to the MEA to collect the dues from each teacher and it’s the prerogative of each teacher to pay them or not.”

The MEA’s statement that some 8,000 teachers have chosen not to pay dues contradicts its own claim last October that only 1 percent of the total membership chose to leave under right-to-work. The union has about 112,000 active members, and 150,000 total including retirees.

“It looks like the MEA was attempting to mislead the press and the Legislature with its math,” Wright said. “Clearly these 8,000 teachers were kept in the dark about this so-called ‘August window’ and would have opted out of the union at the time had they known.”

Wednesday’s MERC hearing stemmed from unfair labor practice charges the MCLF filed against the MEA on behalf of eight teachers who say they were bullied by the union for attempting to exercise their worker freedom rights.

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