Late last February, the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation announced it had filed a lawsuit against the Taylor Federation of Teachers, the Taylor School Board and the school district itself over an eleventh-hour contract negotiated before right-to-work took effect. The suit was filed on behalf of three teachers in the district who objected to a special contract clause that guaranteed union dues for a ten-year period.
Judge Julia Stern reviewed the complaint and is recommending to the Michigan Employment Relations Commission that the case be dismissed saying:
“It is not the Commission’s role to modify the terms of a lawful contract on public policy grounds.”
In a separate vote, Taylor teachers agreed to the dues contract clause which was negotiated at the same time as the contract. The contract also included a 10 percent pay cut. Mackinac Center was crying foul over the separate clause, citing that it normally would be part of the contract and not require a stand-alone vote. Democracy Tree is at a loss as to why the Mackinac Center should find that objectionable. Mackinac Center Senior Attorney Derk Wilcox made this argument in their press release:
The union is throwing teachers under the proverbial school bus with a contract that includes a 10 percent pay cut just to continue padding its coffers.”
Taylor schools are among approximately 50 districts in the state that are on the watch list for fiscal crisis. Again, Mackinac Center misappropriated the blame:
“…the district was forced to file a deficit elimination plan with the state in light of a self-created $14 million overspending crisis.”
A review of the district’s per pupil foundation grant paints a different picture. Taylor students are worth $7,709 this school year, down $473 since Snyder took office. With a current student population of 7307, that adds-up to nearly $3.5 million a year in lost revenue. The district is not unique — in truth, it’s emblematic of a larger looming fiscal crisis that will eventually touch all districts in the state.
Mackinac Center lost this legal wrangle, but they have more in the works. The think tank itself lacks legal standing to file these cases, so their legal foundation trolls for teachers willing to file a grievance. Last October, they filed eight additional complaints on behalf of teachers in Coopersville, Petoskey, Clarkston, and Saginaw over claims that the teachers were kept in the dark about their opportunity to opt-out of paying union dues. Perhaps those teachers were living in a cave.
Updated at 6:30 pm 1/7/14: In light of the Taylor school ruling, an arbitrator has ruled that Chippewa Valley Schools, Warren Consolidated, Warren Woods, and Macomb ISD must honor the provisions of contracts that allow for automatic payroll deduction of teacher’s union dues. Another union-bashing law that now prohibits payroll deduction of teacher’s union dues was also passed last year. The arbitrator has taken the same interpretation as Judge Stern — a contract signed prior to the enactment of the law remains valid. Read more here.
7:25 pm 1/7/14: Mackinac Center responds to ruling. Read here.