MEA union officials quickly settle: rather than litigate, union will recognize workers’ union membership resignations and stop threats over union dues
Lansing, Michigan (February 5, 2019) – A federal class action lawsuit brought by National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation staff attorneys for two Michigan public school employees against the Michigan Education Association (MEA) has ended in a settlement. Thanks to the settlement, the workers are now free from years of MEA officials’ harassment over forced union dues that the workers did not owe.
Plaintiffs Linda Gervais and Tammy Williams, who both worked for the Port Huron Area School District, filed against the MEA after union officials spent years attempting to obtain union membership dues from the two workers even though they were not union members.
Gervais and Williams exercised their rights by resigning their union memberships in September 2013, approximately nine months after Michigan enacted Right to Work legislation that protects workers from being forced to pay dues or fees to a union as a condition of employment. Despite the resignations and the statute, MEA officials continued to demand that they pay dues for a period after their resignations.
As part of the MEA campaign to collect the dues, union agents contacted Gervais and Williams dozens of times demanding hundreds of dollars’ worth of back dues that the women were under no legal obligation to pay. Union agents even threatened to take both women to small claims court for their failure to pay the demanded fees.
MEA officials claimed that Gervais and Williams missed the “window period” to cut off union payments. However, in a 2014 case brought by Foundation staff attorneys, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed a Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) decision striking down that “window period” scheme as illegal under Michigan’s public sector Right to Work law.
Gervais and Williams sought free legal aid from Foundation staff attorneys to challenge the union officials’ demands. Their lawsuit applied the protections under the June U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Foundation-won case Janus v. AFSCME.
The landmark Janus decision ruled that a union violates the First Amendment by demanding or coercing public employees to pay union dues or fees without their explicit consent. Citing that ruling, Gervais and Williams’ federal class action lawsuit sought an end to the unions’ demands, for themselves and other workers who faced, or continue to face, similar demands, along with refunds for all workers who paid the dues MEA agents illegally demanded.
Rather than face National Right to Work Foundation staff attorneys in court, the MEA entered into a settlement under which the union will recognize and accept the two workers’ resignations and will cease demanding and attempting to collect union membership dues. Additionally, MEA officials will stop demanding union dues from all other individuals who notify them within twelve months of the settlement that they resigned their union membership after Michigan’s Right to Work Law took effect on March 28, 2013.
Michigan employees who labored under the monopoly bargaining representation of MEA and who believe they may be covered by the settlement are encouraged to contact the National Right to Work Foundation for free legal assistance in exercising their rights at www.nrtw.org/free-legal-aid or by calling the Foundation toll-free at 1-800-336-3600.
“This is a great example for other workers who are victims of Big Labor’s coercive tactics,” said Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Foundation. “As the union bosses’ attempt to counteract Michigan’s Right to Work law demonstrates, although union membership and financial support is voluntary under the law, that doesn’t mean Big Labor will obey that law. Thankfully, armed with the Foundation-won Janus Supreme Court decision, Linda and Tammy successfully halted this multi-year campaign of illegal dues demands for themselves and countless other educators.”
Since Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed Right to Work legislation into state law in December 2012, Foundation staff attorneys have litigated more than 100 cases in Michigan to combat compulsory unionism. Foundation staff attorneys are also pursuing dozens of other cases across the country since the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus.
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit, charitable organization providing free legal aid to employees whose human or civil rights have been violated by compulsory unionism abuses. The Foundation, which can be contacted toll-free at 1-800-336-3600, assists thousands of employees in more than 250 cases nationwide per year.