The Building Tradesman Newspaper

Friday, November 01, 2013

News Briefs

By The Building Tradesman

Mackinac Center now (more!) anti-union

The conservative Mackinac Center for Public Policy is quickly morphing into a worker advocacy group. Of course, they're not advocating for fair wages or better safety standards on the job - they're advocating for workers who want union benefits, but don't want to be in a union.

The Michigan-based conservative think tank - among the first created and among the most well-funded in the nation - has traditionally pursued a course of writing letters to the editor pumping out opinion pieces about how our state and nation would be better served by lower taxes, lower regulations, fewer unions and kissing the backsides of big businesses.

Since Michigan adopted its right-to-work law earlier this year, the Mackinac Center is sending lawyers and money to push its agenda on behalf of its corporate sponsors. Last March, the Mackinac Center took it upon itself to support a lawsuit by three Taylor teachers who protested a 10-year contract by the union with the school district just before the state's right-to-work law went into effect.

In August, The Mackinac Center announced that its legal foundation filed a lawsuit in Wayne County Circuit Court on behalf of four employees of the City of Dearborn against Teamsters Local 214. The lawsuit protests a union policy that charges freeloading employees a fee for receiving union bargaining services.

Last week, the Mackinac Center filed a complaint with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission, alleging unfair labor practices by the MEA. The reason: some teachers tried to opt out of union membership, but couldn't, because they didn't request the opt-out during the legally-allowed month-of-August time frame.

According to the MIRS News Service, a 2004 MERC ruling approved of the union's policy permitting members to leave only during August, stating that nothing in the state Public Employment Relations Act "precludes a labor organization from placing reasonable restrictions on the timing and manner of the withdrawal of an employee from membership."

1% don’t pay dues to MEA under RTW

The Michigan Education Association says 1,500 members have declined to pay union dues since the passage of Michigan’s right-to-work law in December. That amounts to 1 percent of the union’s 150,000 members.

“I think it means the association is not nearly as weak and impotent as some – either inside the association or, certainly, outside – would have us believe,” said MEA President Steve Cook on the television show Off the Record. “I think the association has tremendous value for its members and that's why members stayed with us. Ninety-nine percent of the members who could have either become freeloaders or fee-payers chose to stay with the Michigan Education Association.”

During the interview, Cook said the teachers union has “no intention” of pursuing a 2014 ballot initiative asking voters to get rid of the right-to-work law, and would instead put political money toward union-friendly candidates.