News Story

Union President Concedes Right-to-Work Lawsuit; Strikes Back Against Workers Who Left

This is a portion of the Brighton Education Association's newsletter in which the union president says she will name everyone who opted out of the union in the newsletter.

After a teachers union president lost a legal battle involving forcing a non-union member to pay part of her salary for union-related activities, she responded by publishing the names of all former members who opted out of the union in a newsletter.

Under Michigan's right-to-work law, employees can no longer be required to belong to or support a union as a condition of employment.

According to Adam Neuman, the former Brighton Education Association member who sued to avoid having to pay part of BEA Union President Ellen Lafferty’s salary, the BEA president also put bright red “I Opted IN” buttons in the school mail boxes of employees who were still part of the union.

Some observers say publishing the names of those who opted out is akin to workplace bullying and think Lafferty is creating a hostile workplace environment.

Lafferty didn't respond to an email seeking comment.

“Before Michigan’s Freedom-to-Work law, the union would simply have gotten Adam Neuman fired,” said Joe Lehman, president of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “Now all they can do is bully and intimidate those who don’t want to join, which still keeps millions of dues dollars rolling in.”

Neuman, a social studies teacher and Afghanistan war veteran, resigned in August from the BEA and the Michigan Education Association, the BEA’s parent union. The state’s right-to-work law says that once union members opt out, they no longer have to financially support the union as a condition of employment.

Neuman said paying part of the union president’s salary amounted to “supporting the union.” The provision was part of a union contract the Brighton board of education signed last June, which required charging all members of the bargaining unit for the amount the union agreed to pay the district in return for Lafferty’s “release time.” Release time allows union officials who are school employees to get paid by the school for conducting union business during school hours.

But under current law, employees who opt out of union membership are still considered part of the “bargaining unit.” Neuman said that’s why the union felt he should still have to pay part of Lafferty’s salary. Eventually, the union and the district agreed to charge only dues-paying BEA members for the union’s share or Lafferty’s release time. Neuman told The Heartland Institute that once the lawsuit was settled, “all union members received a shiny new red button in their staff mailbox with ‘I Opted IN’ on it. Yet another example of their priorities when it comes to spending dues money, I guess.”

Gary Naeyaert, executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project, said that Michigan’s teachers have earned the freedom to choose whether or not they want to join a union.

“This freedom should come without bullying or efforts to publicly intimidate them,” Naeyaert said.


See also:

Union, District Force Non-Union Teacher to Pay for Union Release Time