248-409-1900 dburke@mi-worklaw.com

By:  Bill Pilchak – 8/19/14

          In case you don’t read the editorial page every morning, let me pass on a message from Robert Wiersma, an economics teacher at Hopkins High School near Holland, Michigan found in today’s Detroit News. Hopkins details how his dues money to the MEA, approximately $1000 per year, had been “air dropped” into the pockets of political candidates and wasted on controversial agendas that he did not support and which had nothing to do with education for years. He mentions “costly and economically unsustainable collective bargaining practices” that he says make him – as an economic teacher- “cringe.”

          Wiersma details his efforts to exercise his Right-To-Work rights to revoke his union membership, including communications immediately after RTW was passed in December, 2012, and culminating in e-mails and letters as late as June of that year. However, union dues continued to appear on his credit card invoices. He then learned that the MEA would not honor his many requests to leave the union, because the MEA constitution only allows members to resign in August of each year.   In other words, they disregarded his pre-August requests to resign. It’s like when Luke Skywalker made his bombing run on the Deathstar and had to fire his photon torpedo into a thermal exhaust port no bigger than a womp rat. Miss that window, and you are stuck in the union for another year. Wiersma was finally able to opt out in August, 2013 after the MEA divested him of another $1000.

          The MEA’s August “window of opportunity” demonstrates what the attorneys at P&C have known for years. Unions are in business for themselves. It’s all about the dues. Sometimes they do shockingly little for bargaining units. This is illustrated by the recent nation-wide scam where the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) made deals with Jennifer Granholm and other governors whose campaigns they helped fund, to declare the SEIU the bargaining agent for “home health care workers.” Those workers were usually parents and family members caring for elderly or disabled family members. Because the state paid the caregivers out of federal allocations, it was purportedly the employer of the caregivers, and $30 per month was automatically deducted from the amount intended to pay for the care of the disabled/elderly and sent to the SEIU. Right to Work freed those caregivers in Michigan from the scam in 2012 and the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Harris v Quinn earlier this year holding that the state’s minimal role, paying money but setting no other terms of employment, did not justify the arrangement and divesting individuals of funds then spent on the union’s political agenda violated the First Amendment. In Michigan, more than 40,000 caregivers immediately opted out of the SEIU. The Mackinac Center estimates that $30 million was diverted from home health care to the SEIU.

          Imagine someone reaching into your pocket and taking $1000 to pay for political activity you didn’t support. If you know a teacher in that position, forward this e-mail to him/her. The language below is recommended by the Mackinac Center to resign membership:

 Michigan Education Association 1216 Kendale Blvd. P.O. Box 2573 East Lansing, MI 48826-2573

To whom it may concern:

I am an education employee in _________school district and I am in the collective bargaining unit of __________. With this letter, I am seeking to immediately and permanently exercise my rights under Michigan’s right-to-work law. [MCL 423.210] Therefore, I am terminating my membership in the MEA and all of its affiliates and revoking any previous dues authorization, check off, or continuing membership form that I may have signed. I am making this request in August, as you say I must under MEA bylaws. I understand that I may rejoin at a later time if I believe that membership is in the best interests of me, my family, and the students at my school.

If my collective bargaining agreement does not allow me to take advantage of my right-to-work rights at this time, then I ask that you accept my resignation from the MEA and all its affiliates and consider me an agency fee payer pursuant to my rights under the Supreme Court Case Abood v. Detroit Board of Education, 431 U.S. 209 (1977) until I am able to fully exercise my rights under right-to-work.

Please be aware that your failure to comply with this request can lead to a civil fine, and/or a court action against you and the payment of my attorney fees.

I ask that you notify me immediately in writing if you are not willing to honor my rights, and provide me with the legal reasons for your refusal.

Thank you for your assistance in this matter.