By Steve Gunn
MIDLAND, Mich. – How’s this for an absurd, troubling fact?
In Michigan, it usually takes months or years, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees, for a school district to fire a tenured teacher, regardless of their offense.
But any teacher, no matter how terrific they are, can be fired quickly for falling behind in union dues payments.
That’s one reason the Mackinac Center for Public Policy believes that Michigan legislators should strongly consider “Right to Work” legislation that would make union membership voluntary for all employees in all industries, public or private.
Gov. Rick Snyder said earlier this week that a “Right to Work” bill is “on the agenda.”
Many people hope such a law would give schools the opportunity to hire and fire the teacher they choose, based on the best interests of students rather than the financial interests of unions. At the moment that’s not the case.
This year, for example, the Kalamazoo school district fired a teacher in good standing because she failed to pay $411.25 to catch up on her union dues, according to the Mackinac Center.
That was due to a provision in the teacher union collective bargaining agreement that says teachers who don’t pay dues “shall be dismissed from their employment by the district.”
How is the public served by such a rule? If a teacher is doing a great job for students, why should he or she be denied their position? How much the teacher pays the union is between the teacher and the union. Taxpayers should still have the absolute right to hire and retain any school employees they choose.
As the Mackinac Center put it, “No serious argument can be made that the practice of firing teachers who do not give money to the union helps students learn. The only possible reason for these terminations (and the threat of termination) is to preserve the power of a single union within the district.
“Right to Work legislation … would change this.”
In January 2011, EAGnews reported on a Grand Rapids teacher taken to court over unpaid dues: