Michigan’s right-to-work law went into effect on March 28, 2013. Unions were no longer allowed to collect agency fees from non-members. However, workers who were under contracts in effect before the law were still subject to agency fees.
Over the past two-and-a-half years, many of those contracts expired, and employees, including those working in Michigan’s public schools, were free to leave the union without an obligation to continue to pay fees. The result was a substantial loss in membership for the Michigan Education Association, the trend mirroring the early losses in Wisconsin after Act 10 was passed.
In October 2013, MEA president Steven Cook took to local television to boast of the union’s success in weathering the right-to-work storm. “Ninety-nine percent of the members who could have either become freeloaders or fee-payers chose to stay with the Michigan Education Association,” he said. “We lost 1 percent.”
Almost a year later, Cook released a press statement in the same vein. “Despite a relentless campaign by outside forces determined to discredit and destroy the MEA, more than 95 percent of our members stayed,” he said.
This year, Cook claimed, “Only about 2 percent of MEA members resigned this year, a significant reduction over last August’s resignation window.”
But the union’s disclosure report to the U.S. Department of Labor, dated yesterday, tells a different story.
MEA reported it had 94,559 active members working in the state’s public schools, down more than 13,000 (12.3%) from last year. Since the law went into effect, MEA has lost 18,558 members (16.4%).
Granted, the right-to-work law has only accelerated a decline that has plagued MEA since 2005, when active membership peaked at 130,882.