By Ben Velderman
LANSING, Mich. – Michigan’s new Right to Work law won’t take effect until late March, but Michigan Education Association leaders are already scheming of ways to keep educators trapped in their union.
According to a recently published memo from MEA President Stephen Cook, the union plans to “use any legal means at our disposal to collect” dues money from teachers who try to leave the union outside of the union’s strict August dropout window.
“The membership application signed by every member indicates that if they wish to resign their membership, they must do so in August – and only August. We are sticking to that,” Cook writes. “Members who indicate they wish to resign membership in March, or whenever, will be told they can only do so in August.”
Cook’s sue-happy strategy strikes many as very harsh, and it reveals how desperate the union is to get every last dues dollar it can from Michigan teachers.
Suppose, for example, there’s a politically conservative educator who wants to quit the MEA once his current teachers’ union contract with the school district expires in June.
Under the state’s Right to Work law – which takes effect on March 27 – he is no longer legally obligated to stay with the union once that contract expires, and the union is no longer legally allowed to automatically deduct dues from his paychecks.
Starting in June, this teacher should be completely free of union chains, right?
Not according to Cook. He makes it clear in his memo that any such teacher will be expected to pay two months’ worth of dues (in June and July) before he is allowed to quit in August.
And if that teacher should happen to forget to resign the union in August? The MEA says he would be legally obligated to keep paying union dues for another school year, until the next August drop window.
Cook makes it very clear that the union will sue any teacher who thinks he can drop his membership by simply refusing to send dues payments to the union headquarters.
“We will use any legal means at our disposal to collect the dues owed under signed membership forms from any members who withhold dues prior to terminating their membership in August for the following year,” Cook writes. “Same goes for any current fee payers who choose not to pay their service fee.”
It will be up to the courts to sort out how much legal weight a signed union membership form has in relation to the state’s Right to Work law. The union seems to be holding a losing hand, but anything is possible should the case wind up in the hands of an activist judge.
Mike Van Beek, director of education policy at the Mackinac Center, thinks the MEA’s threat of brass knuckle tactics is very revealing.
“The level to which the MEA appears to be willing to go after its own members – the same ones whose interest they claim to represent – is amazing,” says Van Beek, according to the Washington Free Beacon. “When it comes to their revenue, we know where their priorities stand.”