Wednesday, May 3, 2017
Director, Mackinac Center Legal Foundation
MIDLAND — The Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of a group of teachers who have been fighting to exercise their right to work, confirming that the Michigan Education Association’s (MEA’s) August Window policy is illegal.
The unanimous court affirmed the 2015 unanimous ruling by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC), finding that the MEA violated the Public Employment Relations Act (PERA) and committed an unfair labor practice by only allowing teachers to opt out of membership during the month of August.
“We are happy to tell teachers that the union’s so-called August Window remains illegal and that they may drop union membership at any time,” said Patrick Wright, director of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, which represented several teachers in the case. “Not a single judge has agreed with the MEA on this issue. It’s clear: Teachers have the right to work in Michigan and cannot be compelled to remain union members. Furthermore, because the MEA’s dues-deduction and membership form that most employees signed upon starting their jobs does not have a clear waiver, these employees cannot be forced to provide the union additional financial support after their resignations.”
In October 2013, Saginaw teachers Jason LaPorte, Susan Romska, Kathy Eady-Miskiewicz and Matthew Knapp charged the union with threatening to turn them over to a collection agency after they informed it they wanted to opt out. The MEA did not inform these teachers of its restrictive “August Window” resignation period and told the teachers they had to pay up and wait until the following year to resign. The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation has been representing them since, and the case was consolidated with other similar suits by the Court of Appeals.
Following the 2015 MERC ruling against the MEA, the union was required to notify members via print and online editions of the its Voice magazine of the following:
NOTICE TO UNION MEMBERS
AFTER A PUBLIC HEARING, THE MICHIGAN EMPLOYMENT RELATIONS COMMISSION HAS FOUND THE SAGINAW EDUCATION ASSOCIATION AND THE MICHIGAN EDUCATION ASSOCIATION TO HAVE COMMITTED UNFAIR LABOR PRACTICES IN VIOLATION OF THE MICHIGAN PUBLIC EMPLOYMENT RELATIONS ACT (PERA). PURSUANT TO THE TERMS OF THE COMMISSION’S ORDER,
WE HEREBY NOTIFY OUR MEMBERS THAT:
WE WILL NOT restrain and coerce employees in the exercise of their rights under §9 of PERA to refrain from joining or assisting in labor organizations.
WE WILL NOT maintain or enforce a rule that prohibits members from resigning their union memberships except during the month of August.
WE WILL NOT refuse to accept Kathy Eady-Miskiewicz’s September 18, 2013 resignation from her union membership, Jason LaPorte’s September 18, 2013 resignation from his union membership, Susan Romska’s September 20, 2013 resignation from her union membership, and Matt Knapp’s October 7, 2013 resignation from his union membership.
WE WILL remove the last sentence of Article I from the bylaws or amend it to reflect the fact that it can no longer be enforced as written.
WE WILL affirmatively notify Kathy Eady-Miskiewicz, Jason LaPorte, Susan Romska, and Matt Knapp in writing that their resignations in September and October 2013 have been accepted.
The MEA complied with this order in the December 2015 issue of Voice, saying on page 16, “The Michigan Employment Relations Commission ruled that the MEA’s August opt-out window violated the anti-union Michigan right-to-work law which went into effect on March 28, 2013.” The union said members should submit their intent to leave, signed and dated, in writing. The MEA suggested that members seeking to leave the union send their membership number and name of the local association and employer via certified mail, return receipt requested to the following address:
P.O. Box 51
East Lansing MI 48826
The MEA also accepts resignations by email — emailed resignations should be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If the MEA decides to appeal, its next step would be to file an application to appeal with the Michigan Supreme Court.
Court of Appeals ruling
MEA’s ‘August Window’ Ruled Illegal; Union Must Change Bylaws and Accept Resignations
Court of Appeals Denies MEA’s Request to Keep ‘August Window’
MEA Announces Violation of Right-to-Work Law, Says Members May Leave at Anytime
# # # # #