Free-market organizations and legal groups often successfully advocate for public policy changes, such as right-to-work, or win a big high-court case, such as one that involves a union skimming the dues of home care workers. But they have been less effective at making sure that the new law or court ruling is obeyed and enforced. The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation knows this fact, and makes it a priority to implement and defend our victories.
In 2012 the Michigan Legislature passed a law making it illegal for a school district to collect money from its employees on behalf of labor unions. Yet research conducted by the Mackinac Center’s education policy unit has turned up numerous instances where the unions and the school boards (whose members are often heavily influenced or controlled by the unions) are still including these illegal provisions in their collective bargaining agreements. In the recent Mackinac Center Legal Foundation victory on behalf of Adam Neuman (featured in the last issue of IMPACT), violations of this law were coupled with an attempted end-run around the right-to-work law. In Brighton, Adam Neuman, though he had left the union, was being required by the school district’s collective bargaining agreement to pay for “release time” — the collection of taxpayer and teachers’ money to fund union officials’ activities — and the school system was acting as the union’s bill collector. It was a clear example of the union and a government body disregarding or flouting the law.
And the Mackinac Center continues to fight for the rights of other teachers as well. The center continues to fight for Angela Steffke and the Taylor teachers who were subjected to a deplorable ten-year union security agreement that denies them the right-to-work freedoms other teachers are entitled to. On Dec. 3, center attorneys argued their case before the Michigan Court of Appeals. They are awaiting decisions from the court and also from the Michigan Employment Relations Commission. Another priority for our attorneys is testing and defending the Freedom of Information Act — challenges that have already paid dividends in keeping government open and honest.
Michigan’s attorney general has the primary responsibility of enforcing Michigan’s laws and holding local governments accountable. But the reality is that there are simply too many local collective bargaining agreements, too many local FOIA policies, and too many attempts by government officials to undercut legitimate and beneficial public policies. The attorney general’s office simply can’t monitor all of these — and has different priorities as well.
That is why the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation considers it a key function to act as a “shadow attorney general’s office,” ferreting out these attempts to undercut freedom-supporting public policies and calling the parties to account. If we don’t do it, then who will? The foundation looks forward to the day when every local municipality, as it considers contracts, collective bargaining agreements, or FOIA policies, stops and asks, “If we try to get around this law we don’t like, will we get sued by the Mackinac Center?” Hopefully, they’ll make the right choice.