More than 50 Michigan school districts have skirted the right-to-work law that took effect in the state last month by rushing into contracts extending teachers’ obligation to pay union dues for the next several years, the Mackinac Center for Public Policy has found.
The right-to-work law passed in December but didn’t take effect until March 28, giving unions several months to lock districts into new contracts lasting anywhere from two to 10 years, the Michigan-based think tank said. Under the contracts signed in that time period, teachers are required to keep paying union dues, even if they do not want to be part of the union.
Michael Van Beek, director of education policy for Mackinac, said they are using Freedom of Information Act requests to compile the list, and he expects to find more districts that dodged the law.
“At this point I think it’s safe to say that close to 20 percent of the teachers in Michigan have been affected,” he said in the think tank’s Capitol Confidential newsletter on Wednesday.
One prominent case is the Taylor School District, where three teachers sued the Taylor Federation of Teachers and the district after being locked into a “union security agreement” requiring them to pay union dues for the next 10 years. The district separately approved a five-year contract preventing its members from leaving the union. The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation is representing the teachers.
Right-to-work laws prohibit employers and unions from signing contracts that require union membership and dues as a condition of employment. Michigan became the 24th right-to-work state in December.