Growing and strengthening west Michigan's middle class
TAYLOR February 17, 2015– Shortly before “right-to-work” took effect in Michigan in 2013, the Taylor public school district and the Taylor Federation of Teachers agreed to a 10-year collective bargaining agreement.
The so-called right-to-work legislation, which was forced through in Michigan’s lame-duck legislative session by Republican lawmakers in 2012, says that workers can opt out of paying union dues while still receiving the benefits of union membership. But the long-term contract negotiated between Taylor teachers and the district was a way to delay the negative affects of “right-to-work” on the teachers union.
This week, however, the Michigan Employment Relations Commission voted in a 2-1 decision that the Taylor school district and teachers’ union acted improperly by ratifying a long-term contract, and now must allow employees to drop their membership.
From the Associated Press:
“Imposing a lengthy financial burden on bargaining unit members, in order to avoid the application of a state law for 10 years, is arbitrary, indifferent and reckless,” Republican commission members Edward Callaghan and Bob LaBrant said in finding violations by the Taylor district and the union.
Natalie Yaw, a Democrat, disagreed, saying the length of the contract was “neither excessive nor unenforceable as against public policy.” She warned that the decision will open “floodgates of litigation” by employees who don’t like certain provisions in contracts approved by a majority.
“The record demonstrates that the employer and the union negotiated in good faith and reached agreements that were acceptable to both,” Yaw said of the Taylor deal.
The agreement was made to maintain peace between the union and the district. Separately, teachers agreed to a 10 percent pay cut and other concessions.
The challenge was filed by three teachers who were represented by the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, but the commission’s decision would apply to all members of the Taylor union, attorney Derk Wilcox said.
AFT-Michigan and the Taylor Federation of Teachers released this joint statement shortly after the decision was announced last Friday:
The Taylor Federation of Teachers and the American Federation of Teachers Michigan are speaking out against a ruling today by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission.
In a decision reflecting the politicized nature of the agency, two (of three) members of the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, appointed by Governor Rick Snyder, sided with three members against the Taylor Federation of Teachers, which represents more than 500 Taylor teachers, and the Taylor Board of Education.
In an action wholly supported by the anti-union Mackinac Center For Public Policy the three members fought to upset a collective bargaining agreement approved by an overwhelming number of their fellow members and by a unanimous vote of the Taylor Board of Education.
The Commission ignored its own precedent and rejected the recommendation of its own Administrative Law Judge and found that the Taylor contract of 10 year duration containing a “fair share” provision could not be enforced; that the Union and the Board of Education could not have agreed to it. In reaching this decision, the Commission manufactured a new rule, which is not supported by existing law or, indeed, common sense. The ruling was strongly criticized by the dissenting Commissioner who found its entire reasoning invalid.
“Taylor teachers approved this contract because they understand that asking employees to pay their fair share is reasonable,” said Linda Moore, president of the Taylor Federation of Teachers.
“We are confident that this blatantly political decision will be overturned by the Court of Appeals,” said David Hecker, president of the 35,000-member AFT Michigan, the Michigan affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.
An appeal is expected to be filed by the end of February.