Good news for the new year

A recent arbitrator decision regarding the payroll deduction of dues and a Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) ruling on ULP charges against Taylor Public Schools and AFT-Michigan both clarify issues that arose over the December 2012 passage of right-to-work legislation. The two decisions are significant developments.

Arbitrator George Roumell has ordered Chippewa Valley, Warren Consolidated and Warren Woods school districts, and Macomb ISD to honor their contractual agreement to payroll deduct union dues for the life of the contract.

Roumell cited the fact that labor agreements with the school districts were valid and in effect prior to the March 28, 2013 effective date of PA 53 which ended the payroll deduction of dues by school districts. This case helps to validate contract language relating to membership, service fees, assessments and payroll deduction.

The Mackinac Center filed unfair labor practice charges (ULP) on behalf of some Taylor Federation of Teachers members, claiming that a union security agreement which requires members to pay either dues or a service fee to the union is invalid. That agreement expires on July 1, 2023.

The Mackinac Center referred to the passage of PA 349 in its charges. The right-to-work legislation changed a union’s ability to charge a service fee for bargaining unit services. It said the union failed to adhere to its duty of fair representation by circumventing PA 349 and forcing members to pay dues or a service fee when they did not want to.

The union and the district had also ratified a separate contract which expires on Oct. 1, 2017.  The Mackinac Center claimed that the two parties had entered into such a long agreement only to avoid the consequences of PA 349. Both agreements had been ratified before the March 28, 2013 effective date of the legislation.

Administrative Law Judge Julia Stern ruled that the union security agreement is not unlawful and doesn’t violate its duty of fair representation by agreeing to the contract. As a result, she dismissed the ULP charges against the district and the union.