Under Michigan law, if a union has been established in a school
district, it becomes "the
exclusive representatives of all the public employees in such unit for purposes
of collective bargaining in respect to rates of pay, wages, hours of employment
or conditions of employment ..."
Exclusive representation means that individual teachers or
groups of teachers independent of the union may not negotiate their own
contractual terms. Moreover, an employer also violates its duty to bargain in
good faith when it bypasses the union, since direct bargaining between an
employer and its employees would undermine the authority of the union.
In addition, Michigan law provides that the unions and the
school district may require that "as
a condition of employment that all employees in the bargaining unit pay to the
exclusive bargaining representative a service fee equivalent to the amount of
dues uniformly required of members of the exclusive bargaining representative"
Accordingly, most collective bargaining agreements, if not all,
contain provisions that require the payment of union fees as a condition of
employment. This is known as a union security clause, a contractual paragraph
that requires employees either to join the union and pay dues or to pay the
union a lesser "agency fee" and forgo the other benefits of union membership.
A union security clause, where the school board and union have
chosen to include one, establishes what is often described as an "agency" or
"union" shop. Generally, these clauses also require the school board to agree to
fire any employee who fails to join the union and pay dues, or refuses to pay
the agency fee — unless their religious beliefs bar such participation, in which
case they have to pay a dues-equivalent fee to charity (see "Religious Liberty
and Compulsory Unionism" on Page 53). Even tenured teachers may be summarily
terminated for failure to pay mandated fees to the union, despite the Teacher
Tenure Act’s requirement for a prior hearing.
Union security clauses are not without consequence. As Hoxby has noted:
"Laws permitting agency and union shops facilitate assertive collective bargaining because they greatly weaken the position of teachers in a district who oppose the union. The tools an individual teacher has to oppose the union are withholding of financial support and withholding of
political support. Union and agency shops weaken these tools."