I recently provided proof that Public Act 53, which prevents school employees from having their union dues deducted by their employer, is nothing more than a political attack on teachers’ unions. While Governor Snyder said the purpose of the bill is to make sure public education money is devoted to students, what it may do is take money away from students. In my school district, union dues are collected using an automated process that costs the district under $300 dollars per year. A portion of those dues go directly back to our local association. Our association uses some of that money for scholarships, student award plaques, sending underprivileged kids to camp, and to support the efforts of other groups who are helping our students. The cost of these expenses often exceeds $1,500 each year. Recently, one of our students also received a scholarship directly from the MEA in the amount of $1,000. So in an effort to save schools $300, students could lose between $1,500 and $2,500 worth of benefits. Sadly, our association cannot continue having the district collect our dues even if we reimburse the $300 it costs to provide these services.
The real beneficiaries of P.A. 53 are Republican lawmakers. If associations have trouble collecting dues, and are weakened or eventually fold, an enemy to the Republican agenda is defeated. That means more schools will be turned into sources of profit for large companies and rich CEOs. Collective bargaining will be on the verge of extinction. Teachers will be paid less and their benefits will cost them more. Good people will not go into what once was considered a noble profession. Students will have less dedicated teachers. They will have larger class sizes. Students with disabilities or low test scores will be stuck in failing schools because the for-profit schools won’t want to take them in. Overall, achievement will spiral downward.
There is a chance all of this could be adverted though. First, the law could be struck down by federal courts. In Wisconsin, the union dues prohibition portion of their anti-collective bargaining law was just struck down by a federal court. Judges ruled that the state could not pick and choose which state employee unions could have the right to deduct union dues. Second, a ballot initiative called Protect Our Jobs aims to add collective bargaining protection to the Michigan Constitution. This amendment would protect the right of all Michiganders to engage in a collective bargaining process should they want to. So let the unions begin with the federal lawsuit, and let the rest of us begin with gathering signatures for the constitutional amendment. The future of our schools, and our jobs, are on the line.