MIDLAND, Mich. — Workers who do not belong to a union cannot be charged grievance fees, according to an amicus brief submitted today by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy to the Michigan Supreme Court. This is the second time in a year that the Michigan Supreme Court specifically requested an amicus brief from the Mackinac Center.
Within the public sector, unions currently have monopoly power to negotiate and create the disciplinary system. They are also effectively in control of fights within that system. Because of this, allowing the union to not represent employees in grievance disputes could have severe consequences for the employees, including termination.
A contrary rule from the Michigan Supreme Court would undermine worker freedom and allow unions to use grievance fees as leverage to pressure people to join the union. Those who don’t join would likely not be able to have their grievances heard, unless they were to pay exorbitant fees to a union. Since the union has monopoly power as the mandatory collective bargaining agent, these actions would be coercive and should not be allowed.
The Center’s brief explains that charging nonmembers for representation during grievances violates Michigan’s Public Employment Relations Act, which was modeled after the National Labor Relations Act. Since 1953, grievance fees have been impermissible under the National Labor Relations Act. The Michigan Supreme Court held in 1973 that charging nonmembers for services would require the state legislature to change the language in the Public Employment Relations Act.
“Unions are asking the Michigan Supreme Court to deviate from decades of clear law that grievance fees can’t be charged to nonmembers,” said Patrick J. Wright, director of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation and vice president of legal affairs at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “The Court should affirm the Court of Appeals decision and preserve public workers’ freedom.”
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is a nonprofit research and educational institute that advances the principles of free markets and limited government. Through our research and education programs, we challenge government overreach and advocate for a free-market approach to public policy that frees people to realize their potential and dreams.
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