Unions are “Desperado” to Trap Michigan Workers

Feb 5, 2013

Just like the classic song “Hotel California” by The Eagles, unions are trying to make sure workers in Michigan “can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.”

An op-ed in The Wall Street Journal unveils an alarming memo to local union presidents and board members from Michigan Education Association President Steven Cook. In it, Cook recommends different dirty tricks that union leaders can employ to get around the state’s new right-to-work law.

“One bright idea is to renegotiate contracts now to lock teachers into paying union dues after the right-to-work law goes into effect in March. Another is to sue their own members who try to leave.”

"Members who indicate they wish to resign membership in March, or whenever, will be told they can only do so in August," Mr. Cook writes in the three-page memo obtained by the West Michigan Policy Forum. "We will use any legal means at our disposal to collect the dues owed under signed membership forms from any members who withhold dues prior to terminating their membership in August for the following fiscal year." 

Yikes. Maybe Cook should take some advice from The Eagles and “Take It Easy.”

Even without Cook’s encouragement, unions are running to the bargaining table to try to lock in collective bargaining agreements before the new right-to-work law takes effect on March 28. One attorney told Crain’s Detroit that “inquiries about opening or reopening contract talks are about double their usual volume,” since the law was signed.

Steven Fishman, partner and chairman of the Workplace Law Group at Detroit-based Bodman PLC, said he, too, sees a surge in labor contract talks among the firm's private- and public-sector clients connected to right to work, compared with his usual volume of negotiations at this time of year.

The uptick, he said, includes renewed interest in extending closed shop arrangements, sometimes in contracts that don't expire for a year or more. 

"Most of these different kinds of contract talks are not meeting the light of day, though, because the unions don't necessarily want to publicize that they are championing changes to their current contracts in order to (make sure) that their union agency or security clause remains contracted," he said. 

If, and when, all else fails, union leaders like Cook are prepared to “Take It To the Limit” and are turning to the courts. The ACLU and a coalition of unions have already asked a judge to invalidate the right-to-work law, and the Michigan Education Association filed a similar lawsuit in December.

The Wall Street Journal notes:

Yet the most revealing news in the Cook memo is how little the union discusses assisting workers so more will voluntarily join unions. Instead the focus is how to continue coercing workers to keep paying dues. No wonder that the percentage of government workers who belong to unions fell last year. The Cook memo is damning proof that the main goal of union leaders is to enhance the power of union leaders, not of workers.

It all seems very “Desperado” and “I Don’t Want to Hear Anymore.”

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