Jacques: Right to work is for teachers, too

Ingrid Jacques, The Detroit News

Teachers who want to exercise their rights under Michigan’s right-to-work law received a boost from the state Court of Appeals last week. It’s a fight that the Michigan Education Association has waged against its members for four years.

Clearly, the state’s largest teachers union doesn’t give up easily.

The issue at stake in this case related to the union’s “August window” for opting out of the union. The MEA kept this rule, which said members had to submit their formal request to leave the union in August each year, even after the state passed right to work.

Many teachers were unaware of this limitation, and some who had tried to leave the union — and ditch the dues that accompany membership — at other times of the year, learned the hard way that the union was going to make leaving as difficult as possible.

In fact, quite of few of these teachers who tried to leave the union found out that their union would go after their dues and even threaten turning them over to a collections agency.

So this latest decision was a hard won victory. In a unanimous decision, the Appeals Court found the August window illegal. This followed a ruling by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission in 2015, which had found this an unfair labor practice against teachers.

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation represented several teachers in this case.

“We are happy to tell teachers that the union’s so-called August Window remains illegal and that they may drop union membership at any time,” stated Patrick Wright, director of the Legal Foundation.

While teachers aren’t leaving the union in droves, MEA membership has dropped to 90,600 in 2016 from 117,200 in 2012 — prior to right to work.

The union should concentrate on offering services that make its members want to stay, rather than fighting the ones who would rather leave.