Administrative Law Judge Recommends Dismissal of Taylor Teachers’ Challenge to Decade-Long Forced Dues Extension

Ruling could allow lengthy collective bargaining agreements to sidestep state law

For Immediate Release
Monday, Jan. 6, 2014
Ted O'Neil
Media Relations Manager

MIDLAND — An administrative law judge with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission has recommended dismissing unfair labor practice complaints brought by three Taylor teachers challenging the legality of a 10-year union security clause agreement between the Taylor Federation of Teachers and the Taylor School District that forces teachers to pay union dues through 2023 — a full six years beyond their current contract — and allows the union to have teachers fired for refusing to provide financial support.

“If upheld, this ruling would mean that a union could enter into an indefinite union security agreement,” said Derk Wilcox, senior attorney with the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation. “If 10 years is acceptable, why not 50? Why not 99? The logic of this ruling means that local governments, by enacting specific agreements for long periods of time, could sidestep state laws they disagree with.”

ALJ Julia Stern in her ruling indicated that the length of the security clause bothered her, but said she lacked the power to modify it.

The MCLF in February 2013 filed suit in Wayne County Circuit Court on behalf of three Taylor teachers who objected to the separate, 10-year dues agreement, which was agreed to apart from a new four-year contract that included a 10 percent pay cut for teachers. Such clauses, as the name implies, are generally found within a contract and run for only the length of the contract.

Angela Steffke, the MCLF’s lead plaintiff, said the matter is unsettling.

“We have no idea what we’ll be charged for union dues or what we’ll receive from the district from October 2017 until October 2023,” she said. “The only thing we know is that we’ll be forced to pay. There are no specifics in the 10-year security clause about collective bargaining. How is this a fair labor practice?”

In July 2013, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Daphne Means Curtis ruled that she lacked jurisdiction to decide the legality of security clause. The MCLF appealed that decision to the Michigan Court of Appeals in August 2013 and filed the unfair labor practice complaints at MERC. Stern’s recommendation now goes before the full Michigan Employment Relations Commission.

“To prevent end runs around other statutes, the Legislature may want to re-examine the allowable length of collective bargaining agreements and perhaps their scope,” Wilcox said.

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