BY JESSICA STEELEY
Clarkston News Staff Writer
Teachers’ unions are appealing a ruling of the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC), saying they violated the state Right to Work Law.
“We disagree with the finding,” said David Crim, spokesperson for the Michigan Education Association. “We are appealing the ruling and plan to let the legal process run its course.”
When contacted, Clarkston Education Association President Daryl Biallas had no comment, instead directing questions to the MEA.
Superintendent Dr. Rod Rock said, “We have a long history of positive relations with our employees and we are satisfied that this matter is resolved.”
In the Oct. 12 ruling, MERC said the teachers’ associations illegally extended a forced dues clause in an employment bargaining agreement after the law took effect in 2013.
Clarkston Community Schools were also found to have violated the law by agreeing to union officials’ demands for illegal extension. The school district and associations were fined $500 each for the violation.
Ron Conwell, a Michigan public school teacher, filed the charges against the union with MERC. Conwell resigned his union membership in August 2015, but later in the same month teacher union officials informed him he was still required to pay union fees or be fired.
Amy Breza joined a similar lawsuit in 2013 when she was a paraeducator in Clarkston Community Schools. Her case has been waiting for developments in other cases, including this one, said Patrick Wright, vice president for legal affairs at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, which represented several teachers in the case.
“That case is still at the ALJ (Administrative Law Judge) level and we are in discussions right now,” Wright added. “So, that is impacting things, but that hasn’t been determined yet.”
Right to Work laws eliminate union security clauses and collective bargaining agreements, so employees who choose to resign from the union no longer have to pay dues or agency fees and they’re allowed to resign at any time. Employees who resign also can’t be fired for not paying dues, he said.
MERC ordered CEA and MEA to stop threatening employees with termination based on an illegally extended forced-dues clause after the Right to Work Law went into effect.
The case now moves to the Michigan Court of Appeals. A decision of that court could be appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court.
“I would guess that you’re probably looking at a year before there is a court of appeals decision,” Wright said.