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Court Rules Michigan Can Proceed With Law Prohibiting Teacher Union Dues

On Thursday, the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a lower court ruling in a 2-1 decision adorned with a 13-page dissent from Judge Jane Stranch. The majority held that the state of Michigan can proceed with a law, signed by Republican Governor Rick Snyder in March 2012, which prohibits school districts from deducting union dues of teachers from their paychecks.

The law was challenged within three months of being passed, and U.S. District Judge Denise Page Hood allowed the request of a coalition of teachers’ unions to enjoin the law. In reversing Hood’s decision, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals rejected the argument of teachers’ unions that the law violated the First Amendment and the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause.

The 6th Circuit relied upon the Supreme Court precedent of Ysura v Pocatello Education Association, in which Idaho’s bans on payroll deductions was upheld. The court also observed that the law “says nothing about speech of any kind” and thus does not attract any First Amendment related issue.

The unions argued that collection of dues facilitated free speech.

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The 6th Circuit also held the law did not violate equal protection rights granted under the 14th Amendment and teachers were not disfavored though the law was meant only for teachers’ unions.

In dissent, Judge Jane Stanch observed that the majority “mischaracterizes the First Amendment interests at stake, glosses over key distinctions the Supreme Court requires us to observe, and averts its gaze from Act 53’s blatant viewpoint discrimination.”

Following the decision, the Michigan Education Association president Steve Cook said in a statement, “Banning payroll deduction of dues only for school employees is clearly an attack on the First Amendment rights of our members and retaliation for our activism in fighting the right-wing, anti-public education agenda.”

The case is Ivy Bailey v. Edward Callahan, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, No. 12-1803.

Court Rules Michigan Can Proceed With Law Prohibiting Teacher Union Dues by

  • Tim Morgan

    Though a native of Michigan, I do not know whether school districts there are local entities or merely subdivisions of the State. In the former case, the employees are not State employees and the National Labor Relations Act should apply. (In which case it would be nice to keep the NLRB functioning.) If the teachers are considered State employees, federal labor standards probably do not apply. If they really want to test free speech rights, in that case, the teachers should consider joining the IWW, which eschews dues checkoffs and recognizes that workers and management have little to nothing in common.

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