Teacher freedom in Michigan

Michigan’s new right-to-work law is starting to show results, with more workers exercising their freedom from unionization and compulsory dues. And just as we’ve seen in other states that respect workers’ constitutional rights, teachers are among those most anxious to strip away the union’s shackles. According to the Education Intelligence Agency, the state’s teachers’ union, Michigan Education Association (MEA) lost 5,000 members last month alone. That’s up from 1,500 last year. That’s great news for teachers, but bad news for a union already in financial ruin. According to MEA’s 2013 annual financial report filed with the U.S. Department of Labor, the union has negative net assets of $112 million.

And in a court decision handed down last week, a Michigan administrative judge ruled that teachers’ union members may leave the union at any time, as any restriction would violate the state’s new right-to-work law. Previously, the Michigan education union provided only a narrow one-month window in which members could drop their membership. According to the Detroit Free Press, "The ruling could be a blow to the union, which represents teachers and many other school employees. For decades the union’s bylaws have stipulated that members could opt out only between Aug. 1 and Aug. 31."

Meanwhile, a new nationwide Gallup poll finds the public overwhelmingly supports a workers’ right to be free from compulsory unionism without the threat of losing their job. The poll found widespread disapproval of so-called "fair share fees", which require non-members to pay fees to a union. According to Gallup: "Pro-union forces partly oppose right-to-work laws because of the ‘free-rider’ problem, with non-union workers benefitting as much as union workers when unions negotiate pay and benefit increases with employers. But by 64% to 32%, Americans disagree that workers should ‘have to join and pay dues to give the union financial support’ because ‘all workers share the gains won by the labor union.’"

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