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Judge Rules August Opt-Out Illegal in Michigan
posted by: Alana | September 05, 2014, 03:22 PM   

Yesterday, Michigan Administrative Law Judge Julia C. Stern found the union guilty of unfair labor practices and mandated that public employees be allowed to resign from membership at any time. Here’s what  people are asking…

What’s the back story leading up to the ruling?

On December 11, 2012, Michigan signed into law Right-to-Work legislation that freed teachers from being forced to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.

But to protect their union piggy bank, the Michigan Education Association (MEA), the state’s largest teachers union and NEA affiliate, responded by adding a secret, unpublicized bylaw that restricted fleeing teachers to a short, burdensome opt-out period in August.

In doing so, MEA effectively trapped teachers into membership and forced them to continue paying extortionate monthly dues year after year – and teachers could see right through the tactic.

Despite best efforts through the August Opt Out movement, stories of unanswered emails, unreturned phone calls, and unacknowledged resignation letters swirled rampantly around teacher’s lounges across the state from those who tried – unsuccessfully – to exercise their rights to leave the union.

That’s when they decided they had had enough.

So on October 21, 2013, an outraged group of teachers filed legal action with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission challenging this unfair provision.

What does this mean in light of current events?

Yesterday, that case came to fruition when Judge Stern ultimately held that private union bylaws do not override state law that dictates total teacher freedom of choice. She had this to say regarding the case:

“I conclude that PERA (the Public Employee Relations Act) now gives employees the right to resign their union memberships at will, and makes it unlawful, under Section 10 (20) (a), for a union to restrict that right. I conclude, as I did in those cases, that Respondent [the MEA] violated Section 10 (20) (a) of PERA by maintaining and enforcing its August window period.”

Further, Judge Stern plans to order a cease and desist for the MEA to stop enforcing the August opt out bylaw immediately and to have it stricken down or amended.

What does this ruling mean for teachers?

Per Judge Sterns ruling, the union will now be forced to notify members that they committed unfair labor practices in violation of the law.

In this notice, the union will also concede that Michigan teachers can drop membership at any time, that they cannot refuse to accept resignations, and that they will remove the bylaw or note that it is unenforceable.

Why is this such a big deal?

As the first state to rule that opt-out windows violate right-to-work laws, not only is this verdict a huge breakthrough for Michigan teacher freedom, but now, the groundwork has been laid to empower more teachers in more states to follow suit. It’s only a matter of time before teachers are empowered with freedom and choices.

And Americans stand firmly behind them. In fact, a 2014 Gallop poll found that 71% of Americans would vote in favor of a law that preserved a workers right to hold a job despite their membership in a labor union.

Another Gallop poll addressed the pro-union “free-rider” argument regarding non-union workers “equally benefitting without paying”, and overwhelmingly, 64% of Americans disagreed that workers should “join and pay dues to give the union financial support” because “all workers share the gains won by the labor union.”

Why is AAE different?

While union membership is in steady decline, AAE’s membership is booming. And as the fastest growing, non-union professional educators association in the nation, AAE believes that unions are becoming increasingly unpopular because their partisan politics and controversial agendas don’t accurately represent todays teachers.

Unlike the MEA, AAE is perfectly capable of managing a revolving membership base and does not try to trap teachers into membership under the guise of having a ‘stable membership count for budgeting and administrative purposes’. Teachers are free to join or leave at any time. We want educators to join us because they believe in professionalism and putting students first in education.

“AAE believe that no teacher should be forced to pay dues or fees to an organization whose agenda doesn’t align with their values,” stated AAE Executive Director and Founder Gary Beckner. “Freedom of choice for educators is at the heartbeat of why AAE was founded as a professional alternative.”

The bottom line is that teachers deserve the freedom to choose membership in any association they wish, and non-partisan alternatives like AAE offer teachers the services they need, at a fraction of the cost, and without compromising their values…or their wallets.

How do you foresee this verdict effecting union membership in Michigan? How do you think this ruling will affect teachers in other states?
Comment Below.


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