More Michigan teachers protest union’s actions
Michigan’s Right to Work Law is providing teachers with the opportunity they have been looking for, to resign their union membership at any time they wish. Teacher union officials make it as difficult as possible for teachers to resign by accepting resignations during a short “window period,” usually when teachers are busy preparing to return to school.
Gary Heinlein has the story in the Detroit News.
On the eve of the Legislature’s Thanksgiving break, three teachers went before a Senate committee to accuse their union of deception and intimidation.
“I just felt I needed to say something because I felt there was something unfair going on,” said Novi special education teacher Susan Bank regarding her unsuccessful effort to stop paying dues under the state’s new right-to-work law to the Michigan Education Association. “People are very intimidated by union goings-on.”
Her testimony at the Nov. 13 meeting came during the first of several right-to-work-related hearings slated for a new committee whose chairman said will explore other issues but is vague about what they will be.
The legal foundation said the MEA is using “threats and intimidation” to collect dues from teachers coerced into remaining union members. The 11-month-old law says workers no longer can be compelled to pay union dues or representation fees as a condition of employment.
Two of the three testifying teachers are represented by Wright and the legal foundation in an unfair labor practices complaint lodged against the MEA in October with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission.
Bank, the Novi teacher, said she is in her 39th year as an educator and union member, but grew disillusioned with MEA representation.
“The rules are different now,” Bank said, “and yet somehow I was never informed how they had changed.”
Bank testified the MEA never told her she had to file a notice she was dropping union membership during a one-month August resignation “window” that also is being contested.
As a result, local union leaders have implied her credit rating will be harmed if she doesn’t pay dues to the MEA, Bank told the committee.
Miriam Chanski, a kindergarten teacher for the Coopersville School District in Meekhof’s legislative district, said she indicated on her MEA dues withdrawal form in May or June that she planned to leave the union.
“I said I wasn’t aware that was required,” Chanski said. “Then she told me that I had missed the August window.”
“I think it was actively hidden from us,” Chanski testified.
Since 1973, an MEA form all teachers receive has stated their union membership is ongoing but they can resign between Aug. 1 and Aug. 31 each year, Pratt said. About 1,500 teachers resigned in August, he said.
“The MEA, at our core, believes in the sanctity of contracts,” he said, and it goes for contracts between the union and its members, too.
The commission upheld the MEA’s August resignation period in a May 2004 decision involving West Branch-Rose City teachers.
Wright is arguing the 2004 decision was improper and teachers no longer can be required to stay in unions under membership cards they signed before the December 2012 passage of the right-to-work law.