Brighton Teacher Who Served in Afghanistan Sues Union, School District Over Right-to-Work Violation

‘What part of opting out does the union not understand?’

For Immediate Release
Oct. 15, 2014
Ted O'Neil
Media Relations Manager

MIDLAND — The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation today filed suit in Livingston County Circuit Court against the Brighton Education Association and the Brighton Area Schools Board of Education on behalf of a Brighton High School teacher who says the district and union are violating his freedoms under Michigan’s right-to-work law.

Adam Neuman, a social studies teacher, resigned from the BEA and its parent group, the Michigan Education Association, in August 2014 during the MEA’s so-called “August window.” State law says that union members who opt out do not have to financially support the union as a condition of employment. This includes, according to the statute, “any dues, fees, assessments, or other charges or expenses of any kind or amount.”

“My interpretation was simply that when you opt out of the union, you are out of the union and you do not have to contribute anything to them financially,” said Neuman, a veteran of the 2011 Kandahar surge in Afghanistan. “I think this was done to intimidate some teachers from leaving the union. I talked to a few who said if the union was still able to take their money, they might as well stay in.”

In June 2014 the BEA and the board of education agreed to a new contract for teachers that said all members of the bargaining unit will be charged, via payroll deduction, for a share of the cost for the union to reimburse the district for “release time.” State law forces union members who opt out of membership to remain part of their bargaining unit.

Release time allows union officials a certain amount of time each week to conduct union business during school hours at the district’s expense. Brighton’s contract calls for the BEA to reimburse the district for any release time used by the union over a set amount.

Patrick J. Wright, vice president for legal affairs at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said release time should be funded solely by the union benefitting from it.

“Teachers unions constantly lobby for more money by claiming classrooms are overcrowded,” he said. “But yet for decades they have demanded that teachers be allowed to shirk their teaching duties to do union business during school hours.”

Wright also said the contract violates Public Act 53 of 2012, which prohibits public schools from “collecting dues or services fees” via payroll deduction on behalf of a union.

“What part of opting out does the union not understand?” Wright said. “They are not allowed to raid a non-member’s paycheck. Adam fought for freedom overseas, and he just wants to exercise it back home.”

Neuman, a husband and father of two, is a graduate of Brighton High School and Alma College. He joined the Army Reserves in 2008 after hearing about several former students who were being recalled to active duty under the military’s “stop-loss” policy. He had also known a first responder who died in the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks.

“I left the union because I didn’t want my money going to support an organization that opposes my principles,” Neuman said. “I also don’t like how the union protects ineffective teachers. The military doesn’t tolerate incompetence.”

More information can be found at

# # # # #