Several unfair labor practice complaints were filed against the Michigan Education Association on behalf of eight public school teachers who allege they have been bullied and intimidated for trying to exercise their rights under Michigan’s right to work law.
The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation filed the complaints Monday with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission against the teachers’ respective local MEA affiliates, said Patrick J. Wright, director of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation.
According to the complaints, the teachers allege information was kept from them that caused them to miss a deadline to resign from the union in August, Wright said
“Educators spend a lot of time trying to bring about an end to bullying in schools, yet the MEA thinks it’s perfectly fine to do it to their own members,” Wright said. “The union has gone so far as to tell people their names would be turned over to a collection agency if they refused to reveal private information such as credit card and bank account numbers.”
MEA president Steven Cook sent an email to members Tuesday afternoon saying he wasn’t surprised the Mackinac Center filed the complaints.
“Since they first started informing members about the opt-out window last spring, we figured this was coming. We are prepared to use the MERC process to defend our resignation procedures, as we did successfully more than a decade ago against a similar challenge from the Mackinac Center,” he said in an email.
“The Mackinac Center’s corporate funders are shocked and frustrated that more MEA members didn’t resign, so they’re using these eight members to retry a baseless case they already lost more than a decade ago regarding MEA’s resignation process,” the email said.
Cook said the MEA’s system is set up to match the timeline for employment for school employees. MEA membership and employment start with the beginning of the school year in September. “Every process has a deadline, and ours is the month of August,” he said.
Teachers alleging unfair labor practices against the MEA and their locals are: Miriam Chanski with the Coopersville Education Association; William Arthur with the Petoskey Education Association; Amy Breza with the Clarkston Paraeducators Association; and Matthew Knapp, Kurt Alliton, Susan Romska, Jason LaPorte and Kathy Eady-Miskiewicz, all with the Saginaw Education Association.
Chanski, a 24-year-old kindergarten teacher in Coopersville, said she was given an “e-dues” form in May after a court ruling upheld Michigan’s law making it illegal for school districts to deduct union dues from payroll checks.
Chanski said she wrote at the top of the form that she wished to resign from the union. In September, Chanski said an MEA representative told her that her name could be turned over to a collection agency.
“I’m hoping my credit will be protected and I want them to honor my decision to opt out of the union,” Chanski said Tuesday.
Wright said the “August window” needs to be clarified by MERC.
“That was created not by statute but by bureaucratic fiat when the MEA claimed that processing paperwork from those who wanted to become agency fee-payers was too much of a burden to handle immediately despite those workers’ First Amendment rights being at stake,” he said. “It is our belief that MERC should overturn that prior ruling or that Michigan’s new right-to-work law supersedes that ruling.”