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Teachers union can’t force members to wait to drop out

Flickr user City Caucus

Teachers don’t have to wait if they want to drop out of their union. That ruling was handed down Wednesday by the Michigan Court of Appeals. The court said the Michigan Education Association can’t force teachers who want to leave to wait until an August “opt-out period.”


The ruling would also apply to other unions that would want to restrict when members could exit.


Union leaders say the decision adds injury to insult as they try to navigate their business operations after Michigan adopted a law that says employees don’t have to pay union dues while federal law still requires the union to represent their interests.


Doug Pratt of the Michigan Education Association says the decision steps outside the boundaries of the “right-to-work” law.


 “The relationship between us as a union and our members, that’s something that even the right-to-work law stated pretty clearly is up to us,” he said.


Nevertheless, the union lost before the Michigan Employment Relations Commission in 2015 and, now, the appeals court.


Pratt says the union has complied with the decisions “despite the fact that we disagree with their interference in our business practices and contractual relationships with our members.”


But backers of the right to work law say the ability to exit a union shouldn’t be restricted to a one-month period.


“If you don’t believe the union is providing the benefits they claim they are providing you, you have every right to resign and go about your business,” said Tony Daunt of the Michigan Freedom Fund, a group that helped make Michigan a “right-to-work” state, “and keep that money in your pocket, and use it for something you find valuable.”


The MEA can appeal the decision to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Rick Pluta is the Capitol Bureau Chief for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He is heard daily on WCMU's Morning Edition and All Things Considered.