A Michigan teacher who’s on a crusade against alleged union strong arm tactics said he tried to play by the rules, in an exclusive interview with The Daily Caller News Foundation, and when he left his union, they billed him anyway.
Ann Arbor Science Teacher Ronald Robinson filed a lawsuit May 18 against his former union for allegedly violating the state right-to-work law by continuing to charge him dues after he already relinquished his membership.
Robinson has belonged to the Michigan Education Association (MEA) for more than two decades. He decided in Summer 2015 to take advantage of the statewide right-to-work law by leaving the union. The law forbid mandatory union dues or fees as a condition of employment when it was passed in 2012. To his surprise the union kept demanding he pay dues.
“When I started this process of leaving, I let everyone know,” Robinson told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “So finally I said I am out of here. I have gotten nothing in return, you folks are literally not doing a thing for me other than taking a thousand dollars a year.”
Robinson gave the local branch one last chance to address his concerns before deciding to officially leave. He said that over past two decades he has had major disagreements with some school and union policies but was outright ignored. When it became clear the union still didn’t care what he thought, he decided to leave.
“I am not going to continue paying you for services that you’re not rendering,” Robinson continued, saying it was like paying a mechanic for car that, once started, was clearly unfixed.
Robinson was unable to leave immediately because the right-to-work law did not void labor contracts already in place. The MEA and school district rushed to sign a four-year agreement right before the law was implemented. He finally got his chance in 2015 when the union and district terminated the previous agreement in order to make revisions.
“Upon termination of our contract, several laws went into effect,” Robinson said. “Some of them dealt with tenure reform, some of them were for staffing. Well what also went into effect were all the other state of Michigan laws, because it says once your contract is terminated right-to-work goes into effect.”
Robinson even waited until August 2015 to leave because that’s when the union was holding its annual opt-out window. The union only allowed teachers to leave during a one month period in the Summer. State courts have since deemed the tactic to be in violation of the right-to-work law.
The union started to send him letters the following December claiming he was still required to pay dues which prompted him to file a lawsuit. The Mackinac Center for Public Policy officially intervened in the case May 18 to help Robinson by providing him an attorney. They now have until June 6 to submit the final version of the lawsuit to the courts.
“To be honest with you I’m not 100 percent anti-union,” Robinson noted. “What has drawn me away from them is the lack of accountability. I’ll give you some specifics. Take for instance a few years ago, a situation has arisen, well first of all, being a teacher, when they put students in your class, they do something called load balancing.”
Robinson notes load balancing ensure teachers get an equal number of students assuming they instruct the same subject at the same time. He argues the policy was manipulated so that good teachers were overwhelmed with students and bad teachers were given small classes. He believes it was used as a way to ignore bad teachers and keep them in the school system.
“Well this particular load balancing issue has come up more than ten times since I started teaching in 1992,” Robinson said. “The last time it came around it was pretty deplorable so we as a group, there was several of us, launch a grievance to say, look obviously you need to fix this because a couple teachers are not living up to their end of the bargain.”
The school district and union said they would address the concerns but ended up doing nothing. Robinson notes the union still has done little to address the old concerns and has instead hired people to put pressure on teachers to rejoin the union by harassing them at work and home.
The MEA and the Ann Arbor school district did not respond to a request for comment by TheDCNF.
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