Understanding the new ruling on teachers' union dues

May 13, 2013

This past Thursday, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the State of Michigan can proceed with Public Act 53, a law prohibiting school districts from deducting union dues from teachers’ paychecks.

The 2-1 ruling overturned a Detroit federal court preliminary injunction that ruled in favor of the unions. In June of 2012, U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood issued the preliminary injunction against Public Act 53.

With the new ruling, public schools are no longer required to deduct the union dues from the paychecks of teachers and other school employees.

According to the Detroit Free Press, Thursday's opinion read: “The act merely directs one kind of public employer to use its resources for its core mission, rather than the collection of union dues.” 

Opponents see Public Act 53 as an attack on organized labor, supporters believe it could mean more money in teachers' paychecks

Because teachers can decide whether or not they pay union dues, supporters of the law believe it could increase teachers' paychecks. Opponents see it as an attack on organized labor.

Districts that signed a contract before the law took effect are exempt from the ruling until their contract expires.

Although this bill was introduced a year prior to the passage of the right-to-work law in Michigan, the two bills could influence one another. The right-to-work law made it illegal to require employees to financially support a union.  

A report by Rick Haglund of Bridge Magazine and MLive explained: 

In theory, RTW will encourage at least some MEA members to cancel their dues and walk away. And early evidence from neighboring Wisconsin suggests the MEA will have its hands full in maintaining its membership rolls.

The law has a three-year history rife with controversy. Below is a basic timeline:

2011

September 8: A bill (Public Act 53) is introduced by Representative Joe Haveman (R-Ottawa County) to amend Act 336 of 1947.  Act 336 required certain provisions in collective bargaining agreements for public servants. 

September 15: the Michigan House of Representatives passed legislation that kept public schools from automatically deducting union dues from an employee's pay check.

2012

March: Gov. Rick Snyder (R) signed the bill - Public Act 53 - that prohibited school districts from automatically collecting union dues from the paychecks of teachers and other employees.

June: The U.S. District Court ruled in favor of the unions and gave them a preliminary injunction against the law.

2013

March 27: The law prohibiting automatically deducted union dues goes into effect.

March 28: Right-to-work law goes into effect (it was passed by the Michigan House in December 2012).

May 9: Federal appeals court decides in 2-1 ruling that the state can proceed with the law.

-Julia Field, Michigan Radio Newsroom