School appeal fails in right-to-work case

The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled against the the Clarkston Education Association (CEA) and Michigan Education Association (MEA) in their appeal of a Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) order.
The Jan. 10 ruling upheld the MERC order in favor of Clarkston teacher Ron Conwell, who was in a labor dispute with the teachers’ union over a fair-share service fee in lieu of union dues.
Clarkston had a collective bargaining agreement between CEA and the district with an agency-shop provision, expiring in August 2015. In an agency shop, employees don’t have to join the union to remain employed, but must pay a fee to cover collective bargaining costs.
On Aug. 20, 2015, Conwell sent a letter resigning his union membership and called for release from union fees under Michigan’s new right-to-work law.
The state right-to-work law passed in 2012, giving public employees the right to refrain from union activity. The law also prohibited union security clauses, which called for firing teachers who don’t pay union dues or service fees.
In December 2015, MEA sent Conwell a form letter requiring a service fee be paid. Conwell returned the form without payment.
Both parties then filed for summary disposition with MERC. The commission ruled in Conwell’s favor, and CEA and MEA appealed.
MERC agreed with Conwell’s claims that the union committed unfair labor practices by entering into the 2015-2017 collective bargaining agreement with a union security clause, requiring employees pay dues or an agency fee as a condition of employment.
– Phil Custodio