Mackinac Center Questions MEA Management for Apparently Hypocritical Negotiations With USO Union Workers

“The MEA is balking at expensive health plans for its employees while fighting school districts that resist similar health plans for MEA members,” says analyst

For Immediate Release
Wednesday, Aug. 29, 2007

Contact: Michael D. LaFaive
Director of the Morey Fiscal Policy Initiative

MIDLAND — Mackinac Center for Public Policy Director of Fiscal Policy Michael D. LaFaive today questioned management at the Michigan Education Association for taking a tough stance over the cost of retirement benefits and retiree health care in its dealings with the United Staff Organization, a union that represents professional service workers who are employed by the MEA. According to the expiring master agreement between the MEA and the United Staff Organization, the retiree health insurance in question for USO members involves Michigan Education Special Services Association health care plans. MESSA is a third-party administrator that the MEA often insists school districts use to purchase health insurance for the MEA’s teacher members.

"I applaud the MEA’s sense of fiscal responsibility," said LaFaive. "But like the MEA, school districts and taxpayers are struggling during Michigan’s tough economic times. Districts often wish to restructure health care benefits in order to balance the books. The MEA is obviously trying to pare back the cost of its own professional staff, but so are the school districts the MEA criticizes for trying to control health care costs."

The irony of MEA attempts to roll back the benefit costs of Michigan Education Association employees is not lost on the USO. The USO is reportedly prepared to call for a strike against the MEA, which is the state’s largest union of school janitors, bus drivers, cooks and teachers.

"This is not the first time the MEA has made financial decisions as a business that conflict with its own stance in negotiations with school districts," LaFaive said. "In 1994, the Mackinac Center discovered that the MEA was contracting with outside firms at its East Lansing headquarters for such things as janitorial, food, security and mailing services. In three out of the four cases, the contracts involved firms that used nonunion labor.

LaFaive is author of the Mackinac Center’s "A School Privatization Primer" and co-author of the Center’s "A Michigan School Money Primer," both of which were published this year. LaFaive was also involved in discovering the MEA’s use of outsourcing at its East Lansing headquarters.