Michigan teachers sue union, school board, and district claiming bargaining agreement violates right to work law
The News-Herald in Michigan reports that three teachers employed by the Taylor School District (TSD) have filed suit against the Taylor Federation of Teachers, the school board, and TSD. The teachers claim that a newly negotiated provision in their collective bargaining agreement, called a “security clause”, requires them to join the union in violation of Michigan’s right-to-work law. Plaintiffs Rebecca Metz, Nancy Rhatigan, and Angela Steffke are being represented by the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation (MCLF).
Under the security clause, all teachers in the district will pay agency fees to the union for its negotiation of expenses and enforcement of collective bargaining provisions until July 1, 2023. In addition to the 10-year clause, the union also agreed to a 10-percent pay cut during the next two years. Both the union and Superintendent Diane Allen have said that the new contract will save the district $17 million.
“The union is throwing teachers under the proverbial bus with a contract that includes a 10-percent pay cut just to continue padding its coffers,” said Derk Wilcox, the teachers’ lead attorney. “Our clients simply don’t want what the union is selling.”
Union President Linda Moore said that the lawsuit came as a surprise, although she knew that a “few” employees had been in contact with the Mackinac Center. “Our union overwhelmingly approved the union security clause and were well within our rights to do that,” Moore said. “Right-to-work has not gone into effect yet [in Michigan].”
Source: The News-Herald, 2/28/13, By David Komer
[Editor's Note: According to MCLF's press release announcing the lawsuit:
"On Dec. 11, 2012, Michigan became the country’s 24th right-to-work state. The law prohibits employers and unions from signing contracts that require financial support of a union as a condition of employment.
"The law, however, did not muster two-thirds support in both chambers of the Michigan Legislature to take immediate effect. The waiting period for new laws signed by the governor that lack this provision is 91 days after the close of the legislative session, meaning the right-to-work law will take effect on March 28, 2013.
"The law exempts contracts that are in place before that date. Unions are now scrambling to create, renew, or extend contracts in order to lock-in dues and fees before March 28, 2013.
"The unions are doing more than simply extending current contracts. They are creating new, stand-alone union security agreements with durations up to 10 years. These stand-alone security agreements are illegal under Michigan’s Public Employment Relations Act."