Two weeks ago, a December 2012 memo from Michigan Education Association president Steven Cook to union activists was leaked. Cook discussed strategies for dealing with the state’s new right-to-work law, scheduled to go into effect in March 27.
Mirroring tactics used in Wisconsin just before Act 10 provisions were enacted, Cook advised local presidents to settle contracts before March 27, and to explore extending existing contracts, so that agency fee provisions would remain in effect for the duration of that contract.
What caught the eye of most observers was Cook’s vow to sue members who attempted to resign before August 2013. “We will use any legal means at our disposal to collect the dues owed under signed membership forms from any members who withhold dues prior to terminating their membership in August for the following fiscal year. Same goes for any current fee payers who choose not to pay their service fee,” Cook wrote.
In an interview with WILX-TV Cook said the union “will exercise our rights under the law to collect what the association dues are.”
Cook is perfectly entitled to stand upon his economic rights, just as Verizon would if you wanted out of your wireless contract, or Comcast would if you wanted to terminate your cable service, or your landlord would if you needed to break your lease. But Verizon, Comcast and your landlord don’t spend their days claiming their purpose is “the improvement of education, the advancement of the interests of education and of educators, and the promotion of the professional growth of its members.” They are businesses, and you are in a business relationship with them.
If MEA wants to identify itself that way, then it should not have monopoly privileges, the ability to extract fees from non-customers, or entitlement to payroll deduction services from a government agency. Michigan’s right-to-work law simply tears down the facade.