MEA union settles, pays refunds, and agrees to recognize employees’ membership resignations and stop demanding forced union dues
Lansing, MI (February 28, 2019) – Unfair labor practice charges brought by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys for several Michigan public school employees against the Michigan Education Association (MEA) have forced union officials to settle. The charges were originally filed between October 2013 and November 2014 with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC).
The settlements free the workers from union officials’ “window period” policy, under which union officials claimed they owed union dues despite the facts that each worker had resigned his or her membership and that Michigan’s popular Right to Work Law ended any requirement that workers must pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.
After Michigan’s Right to Work Law went into effect in 2013, public school employees Lindsey Bentley, Mary Derks, Sarah Evon, Jeffery Hauswirth, Becky Lapham, Shannon Rochon, and Michael Rochon each resigned their membership in the MEA and its local affiliates.
However, union officials refused to acknowledge the resignations, citing a “window period” policy that limited members to exercising their right to resign union membership during the month of August. Union officials claimed that the workers owed membership dues until the next “window period” to resign came around in August 2014, which was for many of the workers nearly a full year after their resignation. MEA officials also threatened to use collection agencies to collect dues the union claimed to be owed.
The workers all sought free legal aid from National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys, who assisted them in filing unfair labor practice charges at the Michigan Employment Relations Commission against MEA and its local affiliates. Their charges were held in abeyance pending the result of another case, Saginaw, in which National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys provided legal aid to public school employees challenging the MEA’s “window period” policy.
The MERC ruled in Saginaw that the MEA and its affiliates violated the state’s Right to Work protections for public employees by illegally restricting employees’ right to resign union membership and by attempting to collect dues under the unlawful policy. Union lawyers appealed MERC’s rulings, but the Court of Appeals affirmed that the “window period” policy and the demands for forced dues were illegal. The Michigan Supreme Court denied the union lawyers’ request for review of the rulings, leaving the Foundation-won victory for employees in place.
After losing to Foundation staff attorneys in court in Saginaw, MEA officials decided to settle these cases. The MEA officials have acknowledged each employee’s union membership resignation, stopped demanding union dues, and will refund with interest the union dues that two of the employees paid after his or her resignation. One employee will receive a refund of more than $250 while the other will receive nearly $500 in back dues and interest.
“These workers bravely challenged union bosses’ attempts to bully them into paying tribute to a union against their wishes,” said National Right to Work President Mark Mix. “However, these cases also show that workers need to keep fighting against coercion, as Michigan union bosses have repeatedly proven their willingness to violate employees’ protections under Michigan’s Right to Work laws to keep Big Labor’s forced dues money stream flowing. Foundation staff attorneys continue to assist independent-minded workers across the state in fighting back against Big Labor’s campaign to undermine Right to Work in Michigan.”
Since Right to Work legislation was signed into state law in December 2012, Foundation staff attorneys have litigated more than 100 cases in Michigan combating compulsory unionism.
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 more than 250 cases nationwide per year.