Federal court issues injunction against Michigan law prohibiting payroll deductions of school employees’ union dues
The Detroit News reports that the Michigan Education Association (MEA) has obtained a preliminary injunction from a federal district court barring enforcement of a state law that prohibits local school districts from deducting union dues from school employees’ paychecks. Though U.S. District Court Judge Denise Page Hood ruled that law was likely to be found unconstitutional, the court’s ruling only delays enforcement of the law until there is decision on the merits of MEA’s claim that the law is unconstitutional.
The MEA was joined in its lawsuit by the American Federation of Teachers-Michigan; the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Council 25; and Service Employees International Union Local 517. The unions alleges the law violates the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and charge that the law was passed to punish school employees for exercising their free speech rights in calling for a constitutional amendment to protect collective bargaining rights in the state. The unions also argue the act violates the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution because it treats school employees differently than other classifications of workers without reason.
The federal suit is the second lawsuit filed over the legislation. In April 2012, Ingham County Circuit Judge Clinton Canady III ruled that the law, along with two other laws, can’t take effect until next year because of procedural errors in how House Republicans pushed the bills through. The Michigan Court of Appeals halted Canady’s injunction and the House Democrats’ lawsuit against the majority party Republicans over the issue of how quickly new laws take effect remains in the courts.
The law makes bargaining about the deduction of union dues illegal for school districts. Districts that include payroll deductions in their union contracts can continue the practice until the contract expires. When the legislation was being debated, Republicans defeated an amendment to let unions reimburse school districts for the cost of deducting dues from paychecks. House Speaker Jase Bolger stands by the constitutionality and intent of the law says Bolger spokesman Ari Adler. ”Schools should not be serving as collection agencies between unions and their members,” added Adler.
Source: The Detroit News, 6/4/12, By Jennifer Chambers; Karen Bouffard and Chad Livengood contributors
[Editor's Note: In MEA's press release announcing the injunction, the union stated that the court granted the preliminary injunction because the judge believed there was a substantial likelihood of success on the merits of the arguments presented by the unions, and that unions and their members would suffer irreparable harm if the injunction was not issued.
In October 2011, Legal Clips summarized an Associated Press article in Bloomberg Businessweek, which reported that the Michigan Senate was then considering the so-called “right to teach”bill (SB 729) that MEA opposed. The proposed legislation would have prohibited public schools from requiring employees to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.]