By Dan Cohen – 09/09/14
On September 2, 2014, Administrative Law Judge Julia Stern of the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (“MERC”) struck down the MEA’s August Window resignation provision. The provision, set forth in the MEA By-laws, limited the time union members could resign their membership from the MEA to the month of August. The case reached MERC when four teachers filed complaints against their union because they were advised their resignations were untimely. The teachers attempted to resign from the MEA in September and October of 2013, not having been informed that they could only resign during August, according to the MEA By-laws. The Union then threatened to hire a debt collector and/or sue the teachers to collect the alleged debt.
The MEA’s August Window provision has been in effect since 1973. Pursuant to the provision, the MEA does not accept a member’s resignation unless it is made in the month of August. The MEA website includes a link to the bylaws, and a google search for the MEA’s bylaws directs one to the website. The website, however, does not include a specific link for resignations or window period. Nor is there any mention of the window period in any of the MEA’s many publications, including its member magazine, the Voice. According to Administrative Law Judge Stein, recent amendments to State law gave employees the right to resign their union memberships at will and prohibited unions from restricting that right by rule or policy. In this case, ALJ Stein concluded that the four teachers had the right to resign from the union outside the August window because none of them had clearly and explicitly waived that right merely by joining the MEA or continuing their memberships at a time a by-law provision was in existence to the contrary.
The MEA is expected to appeal the decision to the full Commission. So, we will have to wait and see how this decision plays out. If it stands, however, teachers will be able to resign their MEA and other union memberships at any time. The Mackinaw Center Legal Foundation represented the teachers and filed the charges on their behalf. You can obtain more information on the case at www.mackinaw.org.