COOPERSVILLE, Mich. – A West Michigan elementary school teacher said her union won’t let her opt-out of paying her dues and she said she’s not alone. Seven other teachers across the state have been named in a lawsuit filed on Monday, Oct. 21st against the Michigan Education Association claiming unfair labor practices.
Since 2004, the M.E.A. has allowed teachers to opt-out of the union but teachers are only allowed to leave during the month of August. A fact one teacher said is not common knowledge.
Miriam Chanski teaches kindergarten in the Coopersville school district. Chanski said when she signed up for the job she also signed up with the M.E.A.
“I just signed the form to join like I thought all teachers did at the beginning,” she said.
This Spring, after ‘right-to-work’ was signed into law giving union members the option to stop paying union dues but still retain the support of the union, Chanski said she was asked to sign up for E-dues, a method to take payments to the union electronically.
“That was personal credit and checking information that I never write down on any piece of paper,” she said.
Instead, she said she wrote a note on the top of her letter, “I decided that I was going to opt out for the 2013-2014 school year. “That was the only form given to me so I signed on the top, those exact words, dated it and then I handed it in an envelope.”
“It turns out that they are not honoring my decision to opt out,” she said.
The Coopersville teacher said she was told she missed the August window, a period of time when a teacher can opt out of the union.
“August meant nothing to me,” she said. “Those dates were never discussed. That information should have been provided to me up front and it was not provided to me up front that is why I am sitting in the boat I am sitting in right now.”
She said they told her they were passing her unpaid dues to a claims agency.
“That’s my credit. That’s something I have worked hard to establish. It’s also my reputation and I am not willing to let them damage it,” she said. “Now that my credit is at stake and they are not honoring my decision I have no choice but to take legal action.”
A representative with the M.E.A. said as of Oct. 21st they have not received the complaint and therefore can not comment on the lawsuit. The union said since ‘right-to-work’ went into effect this Spring 99% of union members have stayed with the union. In other words, 1,500 people have decided to opt of the M.E.A.