Thirteen public school employees from around Michigan have been freed from illegal union dues as a result of a settlement won earlier this year, the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation announced on Thursday.
When two employees in the Port Huron Area School District resigned union membership from the Michigan Education Association in 2013, citing the Right to Work law, the union said they could only resign during a certain time of year and still attempted to collect dues.
The Right to Work law passed in 2012 and prohibits membership in a union as a condition of employment.
The union’s alleged “escape period,” which restricted union resignations to a certain time of year, had been deemed illegal in 2014 by the Michigan Employment Relations Commission.
The two employees, Linda Gervais and Tammy Williams, sued the MEA. They argued that the MEA’s insistence they pay union dues violated the First Amendment, citing a similar Supreme Court case. The case, Janus v. AFSCME, decided that making public employees pay dues to a union as a condition of employment violated their First Amendment rights.
The MEA settled the case out of court, a decision that affects both the two original employees, as well as 11 others in similar positions across the state.
“The settlement makes it clear they don’t owe any money,” said Patrick Semmens, the vice-president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation.
The foundation’s president Mark Mix spoke highly of Gervais and Williams and said the foundation will stand by other employees in the same position.
“Linda Gervais and Tammy Williams stood up for their rights under Michigan’s Right to Work law and the Janus decision, and now they have not only won, but have secured protection for several of their colleagues around The Wolverine State from these illegal dues demands,” Mix said in a statement. “But the fight is far from over.”
Michigan has one of the highest numbers of litigation cases related to the Right to Work Law, according to Semmens.
“Union officials won’t accept that union dues are supposed to be voluntary,” Semmens said.
The Michigan Education Association did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
– – –
Jordyn Pair is a reporter with Battleground State News and The Michigan Star. Follow her on Twitter at @JordynPair. Email her at [email protected]
Photo “National Right to Work Foundation” by the National Right to Work Foundation.