Settlement eliminates MEA officials’ unlawful demands for $3,000+ in dues, becoming latest teacher from school freed from union collection threats
Ann Arbor, MI (July 17, 2020) – Michigan teacher Deborah Wolter has just won a settlement in a case brought by Michigan Education Association (MEA) union lawyers against her. Union officials sued her earlier this year for allegedly not paying thousands of dollars in back dues, even though they had demanded these dues from her after she had resigned her union membership. Michigan’s Right to Work law ensures that any employee who refrains from formal union membership cannot be required to pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of getting or keeping a job.
Staff attorneys from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation provided free legal aid to Wolter as she defended herself from the union boss suit. As a result of the settlement, MEA bosses are required to end their demands for dues payments, to update their records to reflect that Wolter is not a member of the union, and to not contact her further.
MEA bosses sued Wolter in January 2020, filing a complaint in a Michigan District Court claiming that Wolter owed more than $3,000 in dues that they had charged her since September 2014, and that she “did not resign membership with [MEA] prior to the accrual of the debt.” Wolter’s Foundation-provided attorneys countered that Wolter did not owe the MEA anything because she had a letter in her records which indicated she resigned her membership in August 2014. This made the union suit a blatant violation of Michigan’s Right to Work law.
With this settlement, Wolter is the latest teacher at her school to successfully stop illegal union demands for back dues with Foundation legal aid. Last year, Foundation staff attorneys won a victory for two other teachers at Wolter’s school who faced similar demands by officials of the Ann Arbor Education Association (AAEA), an MEA affiliate. In that case, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled AAEA violated the rights of teachers Jeffrey Finnan and Cory Merante under Michigan’s Right to Work Law by demanding that they continue to pay union fees even though they had resigned their union membership.
These victories were preceded by a successful 2019 Foundation-won settlement for two other Michigan educators, Linda Gervais and Tammy Williams. Gervais and Williams, both from Flint, MI, sued the MEA in federal court for trying to seize dues from them even after they had resigned their union memberships. Union officials claimed they had missed a narrow “escape period” which limited when they could exercise that right, even though a 2014 decision of the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) in another case brought by Foundation staff attorneys declared the union officials’ “escape period” scheme illegal under Michigan’s Right to Work law. As a result of the settlement in Gervais and Williams’ case, well over a dozen Wolverine State teachers have been freed from illegal MEA dues demands.
“Once again, a Michigan educator has successfully thwarted an attempt by MEA union bosses to continue to collect dues in blatant violation of Michigan’s Right to Work law,” commented National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix. “Foundation staff attorneys have already brought more than 120 cases for Michigan workers since the state’s Right to Work law went into effect in 2013, and will file as many more as necessary to ensure that Wolverine State employees are fully protected from illegal union boss cash grabs.”
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in around 250 cases nationwide per year.