Court upholds fine against MEA union officials for illegally extending requirement that teachers pay fees or be fired
Detroit, MI (January 15, 2019) – The Michigan Court of Appeals has affirmed a decision by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) that found union officials violated Michigan’s Right to Work Law by attempting to extend forced fees for teachers.
The case was filed with MERC by Ron Conwell, a Michigan public school teacher, with free legal assistance from National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys. In August 2015, Conwell resigned his union membership. Later that month, union officials informed Conwell that he was still required to pay union fees or be fired.
In 2017, MERC ruled that the Clarkston Education Association (CEA) and Michigan Education Association (MEA) violated the state’s Right to Work protections for public employees by illegally extending and enforcing a forced dues clause in the monopoly bargaining agreement after the law took effect.
MERC also held that Clarkston Community Schools officials, who did not appeal MERC’s decision, violated the law by agreeing to union officials’ demands for the illegal extension. Both the school district and the unions were fined, which made the case the first of its kind in which violators of the Right to Work law were fined.
Michigan’s Right to Work Law provides that contracts or agreements entered into after the law went into effect must respect workers’ right to refrain from the payment of any union dues or fees as a condition of employment. However, union officials illegally extended the forced dues clause after the law went into effect on March 28, 2013, and then enforced that clause against him. Therefore, Conwell could not legally be required to pay union dues or fees.
The Appeals Court affirmed MERC’s order that Clarkson Community Schools, CEA, and MEA cease maintaining forced fee agreements that violate Michigan’s Right to Work Law, and that the CEA and MEA must stop threatening employees with termination based on such provisions. The court also held that MERC had the authority to levy the civil fines it imposed on the employer and union.
“Michigan workers can celebrate that the decision upholds their right to work without paying forced tribute to union bosses,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “Yet it also shows workers need to keep fighting against coercion, as Michigan union bosses have repeatedly shown their willingness to violate employees’ protections under Michigan’s Right to Work laws in their efforts to keep their forced dues money stream flowing. Foundation staff attorneys continue to assist dozens of independent minded workers in fighting back against Big Labor’s orchestrated 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 to combat 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.