Appeals court rules against MEA

BY PHIL CUSTODIO
Clarkston News Editor
The Michigan Court of Appeals issued a ruling, May 2, in favor of a group of teachers in their right-to-work case, against the Michigan Education Association’s August Window policy.
“We are happy to tell teachers that the union’s so-called August Window remains illegal and that they may drop union membership at any time,” said Patrick Wright, director of the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, which represented several teachers in the case. “Not a single judge has agreed with the MEA on this issue. It’s clear, teachers have the right to work in Michigan and cannot be compelled to remain union members.”
Because the MEA’s dues-deduction and membership form most employees signed upon starting their jobs does not have a clear waiver, these employees cannot be forced to provide the union additional financial support after their resignations, Wright said.
Amy Breza joined a similar lawsuit in 2013 when she was a paraeducator in Clarkston Community Schools district, but her case is still stuck in the courts, Wright said.
One issue still to be decided in Breza’s case is whether a contract extension approved by the Clarkston School Board in March 2013, just before the state Right-to-Work law took effect, still triggers the Right-to-Work law, Wright said.
A decision by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission is pending, he said.
“Justice moves slow,” he said.
In 2014, Brooke Davis of Clarkston Education Association said the August Window allows unions to conduct normal business.
“Employees of this district always work with administration to come to agreements that are best for the district, students and employees. That is exactly what happened when we voted on a contract extension that Amy and every other employee had the opportunity to voice their opinion on and make it heard at the ballot box,” said Davis, who was CEA president at the time. “I would hope that the Mackinac Center would respect that vote and not try to buy a different decision. The Mackinac Center has not ever shied away from letting people know how anti-public education they are.”
The May 2, 2017, decision affirmed the 2015 unanimous ruling by MERC, finding that the MEA violated the Public Employment Relations Act (PERA) and committed an unfair labor practice by only allowing teachers to opt out of membership during the month of August.
In October 2013, Saginaw teachers Jason LaPorte, Susan Romska, Kathy Eady-Miskiewicz and Matthew Knapp charged the union with threatening to turn them over to a collection agency after they informed it they wanted to opt out. The MEA did not inform these teachers of its restrictive “August Window” resignation period and told the teachers they had to pay up and wait until the following year to resign. The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation has been representing them since, and the case was consolidated with other similar suits by the Court of Appeals.