Foundation Attorneys Prevail Against Mammoth Michigan Union
Teachers reclaim $150,000 in extorted union dues

July/August 2000 Issue

BAY CITY, Mich. -- National Right to Work Foundation attorneys have forced Michigan Education Association (MEA) and National Education Association (NEA) union officials to return approximately $150,000 in illegally seized forced union dues to a group of 450 teachers.

“This is a long-awaited victory for Michigan’s teachers,” said Randy Wanke, Director of Legal Information for the Foundation, which provided free legal aid to the teachers. “Over the course of eight years, MEA and NEA union bosses tried every trick in the book to deny these public servants their constitutional rights.”

Foundation attorneys force refunds

Foundation attorneys forced union officials to accept a settlement in Bromley v. MEA, filed by Foundation attorneys on behalf of the class in 1992. The class-action lawsuit challenged the union’s calculation of the compulsory union dues charged to teachers who objected to subsidizing the union’s non-bargaining activities, including partisan political action.

“MEA union officials did everything in their power to delay justice for myself and my fellow educators,” said lead plaintiff Rob Bromley, a professor at Central Michigan University. “In the end, with the help of the Foundation, we prevailed and the union was forced to provide a full accounting of how it’s spending forced union dues for politics.”

Slick union lawyers attacked Foundation

Under the settlement, union officials are required to repay teachers money that was illegally seized from 1991 through 2000 to fund union activities other than collective bargaining. In the Foundation-won Supreme Court decision in Lehnert v. Ferris Faculty Association, another case against the MEA union, the court ruled that an objecting employee cannot be forced to pay for political or other activities not related to collective bargaining. Foundation attorneys filed the Bromley case because the militant Michigan union officials continued their wholesale violation of teachers’ rights in spite of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Lehnert ruling.

“MEA union bosses knew full-well that they were violating the rights of teachers,” said Wanke. “Because of their arrogance, Foundation attorneys had no choice but to file the statewide class-action lawsuit.”

Over the last eight years, union officials engaged in numerous legal maneuvers to try to derail the teachers’ lawsuit. One failed strategy was to attempt to limit document production of evidence the union had chosen to produce in a union kangaroo court where strict rules of evidence did not apply. That attempt to derail the lawsuit was rejected by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and later rebuffed again by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Then, in an ill-fated attempt to discredit the teachers and their Foundation-provided attorneys, union lawyers went to federal court in Virginia and subpoenaed thousands of Foundation documents. The court rejected some of the union officials’ demands to which the Foundation had objected, including a demand for a list of Foundation donors. Later, the U.S. District Court brushed aside the discrediting attempt and certified the lawsuit as a class action.

“Thanks to the dedication of our supporters, the Foundation weathered another vicious attack and prevailed on behalf of Michigan’s teachers,” said Wanke.

Meanwhile, the Bromley battle resulted in the establishment of new legal principles that will make it less difficult for employees exercising their Foundation-won rights in the future.


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