State Commission Strikes Down Michigan Union Bosses’ Scheme to Send Debt Collectors for Illegal Forced Dues
Decision also struck down union “window period” policies that restricted employees’ rights to leave unions, opt out of dues
Detroit, MI (February 25, 2016) –The Michigan Employee Relations Commission (MERC) has affirmed the right of Michigan employees to leave a union and stop paying union dues at any time. MERC also ruled that union officials may not dispatch debt collectors to collect illegally demanded forced union dues. The rulings were issued in two cases brought by public school employees with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys.
Alphia Snyder, a Battle Creek Public Schools employee, resigned her union membership in April 2013, after the pre-existing monopoly bargaining agreement expired and she became fully covered by Michigan’s public sector Right to Work law. However, Michigan Education Association (MEA) union officials insisted that Snyder could only leave the union during an annual 30 day window period in August. Throughout the fall of 2013, Snyder received several demands from MEA bosses for forced dues. Snyder repeatedly reiterated that she had resigned her union membership and would no longer pay any union dues or fees. Snyder filed unfair labor practice charges against the MEA in the spring of 2014.
Mary Carr, a Grand Blanc Community Schools employee, resigned her union membership in November of 2013, just as she became fully covered by Michigan’s Right to Work Law. However, MEA officials responded to Carr’s resignation letter by informing her it would not be effective until the following August “window” period. Union officials then sent multiple demands for forced dues, and eventually threatened Carr that if she did not pay the forced dues, union officials would dispatch debt collectors. Carr also filed unfair labor practice charges against the MEA in the spring of 2014.
In previous decisions, MERC has held that resignation “window” periods are illegal. In this decision, MERC reaffirmed that Michigan’s public sector Right to Work law protects Snyder and Carr’s right to resign union membership and stop all dues and fees at any time, for any reason. MERC noted that Snyder and Carr’s obligation to pay union dues ended the moment they submitted their resignations.
MERC also found union officials’ threats to hire debt collectors “unlawful,” and held that any future such threat would violate the Right to Work law.
“MERC’s decision deals a serious blow to union bosses’ campaigns of threats and intimidation against workers who chose to exercise their Right to Work,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Union bosses just don’t want to accept that Michigan is a Right to Work state, and workers unfortunately face resistance and intimidation just for exercising their workplace rights. The NRTW Foundation will continue to fight against such unlawful practices, and work to ensure that no Michigan worker is ever forced to pay union dues or fees just to get or keep a job.”