Michigan labor officials ruled Wednesday that a state teachers union has violated the law by not allowing school employees to relinquish their membership at any time.
The decision was the result of a 2013 lawsuit brought by four school employees. The Michigan Education Association (MEA) was charged with violating worker rights by only allowing them to end their membership in August each year. The practice of using “opt-out windows” is not uncommon for unions. The decision was made by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission.
“The commission was tasked with determining if the window periods violated an employees’ right to refrain from union membership,” a spokeswoman for the commission told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “The commission decided it did violate the employees right to refrain.”
Michigan outlawed mandatory union dues or fees in 2012 as a condition of employment. The policy is known as right-to-work. No worker can be forced to join a union in any state. In states without right-to-work laws, however, nonmembers can be forced to pay a fee to their workplace union.
The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation helped to represent the school employees. The group is an adamant supporter of right-to-work laws.
“If a union is doing a good job and its members are happy with the service it provides, it shouldn’t have to resort to turning the names of those who no longer want to be union members over to collections agencies,” Mackinac Center Director Patrick Wright said in a statement.”Their members should have the right to instantaneously say. ‘Enough is enough; I no longer want to be part of the union.’”
Opt-out windows are used in both right-to-work and mandatory dues states. The decision, however, means the MEA violated the Michigan version of right-to-work for using it. MEA, though, disagrees with the decision.
“When the written decision is available, we will be reviewing it to determine our next steps, which may include appealing the decision to the courts,” MEA President Steven Cook said in a statement. “Only about 2 percent of MEA members resigned this year, a significant reduction over last August’s resignation window.”
“It’s clear that the vast majority of our members are sticking with us,” he continued, “Despite the efforts of the Mackinac Center and other extreme right-wing groups to divide our members from their union through continued political attacks on public education.”
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