School employees and employers attempt to blunt negative effects of upcoming 'right-to-work' law

Three weeks remain until Michigan officially becomes a so-called “right-to-work” state and, despite interference from Republican politicians, MEA members are doing everything they can to minimize how this new law will hurt school employees and local unions

When it takes effect March 27, the right-to-work law — which was hastily passed by the Republican-led Legislature in December without even a public hearing — will make it illegal for unions and employers to negotiate contracts that include fair-share clauses.

A fair-share clause requires that employees covered under a union contract either become a member of the union or pay their fair share toward the cost for negotiating and maintaining that contract. Fair-share clauses prevent employees from freeloading — receiving the benefits of union representation while leaving their co-workers to pick up their tab.

Under state and federal law, any contract in place before right-to-work takes effect will remain legal and binding for its duration. To that end, school employees and employers are negotiating contract extensions and agreements that include fair-share terms.

Teachers, education support staff and employers are negotiating these fair-share agreements because they want to ensure workplace harmony, free of animosity between dues-paying employees and freeloaders. Many employers, teachers and support professionals are also using this bargaining opportunity to work together to save money and improve education in their respective school districts and universities.

Unfortunately, some Republican legislators are attempting to undermine these perfectly legal contract negotiations and enforce the law before it even takes effect.

For example, Rep. Al Pscholka, R-Stevensville, is attempting to intimate Michigan universities into not extending their contracts with employees by threatening to cut off funding.

Meanwhile, Rep. Tom McMillin, R-Rochester Hills, recently attempted to drag school employees and administrators to a McCarthy-style hearing to testify on their mutually beneficial contract extension.    

"House Republicans are practicing the worst kind of intimidation and, frankly, their actions have no place in a democracy and go against the freedoms that our country is built on," said state Rep. Andrew Kandrevas, D-Southgate.

In a press release last week, MEA President Steve Cook said: “Despite these perfectly legal contract negotiations, some Lansing politicians are wildly accusing unions of trying to ‘skirt the law.’ Nothing could be further from the truth. Instead, we are following the letter of the law, and we will continue to do so after Michigan’s right-to-work law takes effect.”