Senate panel to examine teacher union compliance with RTW

The Michigan Capital Building, courtesy wikipedia user Nikopoley.

The Michigan Capital Building, courtesy wikipedia user Nikopoley.

Accusations that teachers unions are breaking Michigan’s new right to work law could take center stage this week in Lansing.

A newly-formed state Senate panel is expected to look at how teachers unions are complying with the law, which makes it illegal to require workers to pay union dues or fees as a condition of employment.

Earlier this year, the conservative Mackinac Center for Public Policy sued on behalf of several teachers who said they were unable to end their membership with the Michigan Education Association (MEA).

But the MEA says those teachers missed a deadline to leave the union.

“MEA’s process for resigning membership has been the same since 1973,” said Doug Pratt, a spokesperson for the union. “It has been challenged before, by the Mackinac Center, and they lost that challenge more than a decade ago.”

“And we don’t believe the right to work law did anything to change that.”

Pratt says he’s not sure why lawmakers need to get involved in the issue.

“We’re looking at a pretty unprecedented step, which is the Legislature stepping into interpretation and implementation of a law, and how that interacts with the systems that are already there to interpret and implement laws,” he said.

The Senate Compliance and Accountability Committee is expected to meet for the first time Wednesday. It’s not clear if the panel plans to take up any legislation related to teachers unions and right to work.

State Sen. Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive), who chairs the new committee, could not be reached for comment.