Teachers sue MEA union over collection of union dues

Unfair labor practices suit claims unfair tactics

By Rod Meloni - Reporter, CFP ®

CLARKSTON, Mich. - Amy Breza claims the Michigan Education Association (MEA) is using unfair tactics to get to their money.

Breza is a paraeducator with special education children at Clarkston's Sashabaw Middle School.

She is one of eight Michigan teachers who have  filed unfair labor practice complaints with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) against the MEA because they feel the union has taken underhanded steps to keep them as dues-paying members against their will.

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Breza said the law allows her to opt out of paying union dues.

"I am exercising my right and according to the sate of Michigan, I have a right to opt out," Breza said.

Breza said she earns $11.43 an hour and a union dues payment would amount to roughly one full annual paycheck. So Breza told her union president she would not be sending a paycheck for dues.

"She was not very happy, handed me some paperwork and handed me her phone numbed and told he she was trying to help me keep my job," Breza said.

Breza said she does not feel that paying her dues will help her keep her job.

She and the other teachers say information on leaving the union was withheld from them, or they were misled, until after the window of opportunity had passed.

The "August window" is a previous ruling by the MERC that prevents teachers from leaving the union except during a narrow window before each school year. 

"They didn't tell me it was closed. I just didn't exercise my right in the window," Breza said.

The teachers' complaints allege the 2004 ruling needs to be reviewed after Michigan's new Freedom to Work law and a new law that prevents automatic payment withdrawals for member dues. 

Breza said lawyers can argue the law. As far as she is concerned, it is a matter of affordability.

"If they want to call me a freeloader, that's find.  I have a wonderful relationship with my district. I love what I do. I love my kids and I am opting out because I can't afford it," Breza said.

A spokesperson for the MEA said the union had not yet been served with paperwork on the case, and would not comment until it had that paperwork in hand.

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