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Two Michigan Teachers Set Free of Union; Thousands More in Limbo

Jillian Kay Melchior at National Review adds some great insights to this story, as well.

Freedom for two teachers is better than freedom for none. It’s a good start. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports that “kindergarten teacher Miriam Chanski and hall of fame wrestling coach William ‘Ray’ Arthur” were finally able to get their wish and exit the union.”

After an extended legal showdown, the Michigan Education Association dropped its resistance, but not before doing some damage:

Chanski said she had notified the union of her intent to leave, but the request was ignored because the union said it did not fall within its one-month window in which teachers must resign. The MEA only allows teachers to leave in August and it does not actively inform its members of their right to leave. Chanski said her credit was threatened when she refused to pay dues.

Arthur, who is a gym teacher in Petoskey, said he also was never informed of the August window and threatened with having his credit ruined. He estimated he has paid the MEA more than $30,000 in dues over the course of his 34-year teaching career.

The good news for Michigan teachers is there’s one consistent opt-out period throughout the state. The bad news is as many as 8,000 teachers may be left hanging, waiting for the August window. Complaints filed by many other teachers against MEA have not yet been resolved.

In Colorado, the revocation windows vary from district to district. There’s enough confusion and a lack of information that a legislative proposal came forward two years ago to give teachers more freedom and flexibility. House Bill 12-1333 ultimately died in the state senate.

One Jefferson County teacher was able to get out of the union at a different time than allowed under the rules, because her husband was serving as a state legislator. At the committee hearing for HB 1333, then-Rep. Robert Ramirez told the story and capped it off with the remark: “I can’t marry every teacher who wants to opt out of the union.”

That would seem to apply not just in Colorado. Marrying 8,000 Michigan teachers doesn’t sound like a practical solution either. The recently enacted Right-to-Work law ensures teachers can’t lose their jobs over their decision about union membership, but there as here, it can be a hassle to wait for the right window of time, and maybe have to go in person to the union office to ask permission and fill out forms.

Employee freedom means giving educators more opportunity to join or leave a union when they see fit. Whether you’re talking Great Lakes or Rocky Mountains, this issue of basic fairness and respect isn’t going to go away easily.