Unions are given a special privilege in state and federal law — a monopoly on bargaining in the workforces they operate in. While Michigan now lets workers decide for themselves whether to join or pay fees to unions, government rules force all workers to work under the contract.
But that wasn’t enough for the Teamsters Local 214, which represents public workers in Dearborn. The union instituted a new policy in an attempt to penalize employees who resigned from it.
Maria Santiago-Powell, Shawn Koskyn and Greg Andrews risked retaliation to take a stand against this illegal action. The union was forcing them to pay hundreds of dollars in fees, saying they needed to cover the costs of responding to “workplace grievances” — a fee union members didn’t have to pay.
From left to right: Shawn Koskyn, Maria Santiago-Powell and Greg Andrews
This attempt violated decades of court precedent and state law. So, the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation filed a lawsuit. The president of the union defended the discriminatory policy, telling the press that the three ex-members were “committing suicide” and that his union would “go to court if we have to and take it to the last.”
The Teamsters took it all right. Within weeks, they were forced to back down and change the illegal policy. Instead of discriminating against nonmembers, the local instituted a new policy: “Any charges the Union will require related to the processing of grievances will be assessed on a non-discriminatory basis.”
As a pro bono organization, the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation does not expect the people it represents to pay any fees. But one of the Dearborn employees, Santiago-Powell, was so grateful that she decided to pass on the Mackinac Center part of the money she saved, so it can continue to help others in need.