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COOPERSVILLE, Mich. (WOOD) - A 24-year-old West Michigan woman told 24 Hour News 8 she tried to quit her teachers union, but wasn't made aware the only time she could opt out was in the month of August.
Second-year teacher Miriam Chanski, several other Michigan teachers and conservative think tank Mackinac Center have filed a compliant with the Michigan Employment Relations Commission.
"I feel they withheld the information of the August window on purpose," Chanski said.
The "August window" refers to the Michigan Education Association's rule that members can only withdraw in August. It's a rule that has been in the labor union's bylaws for years.
"That August window was never told to me," Chanski, a kindergarten teacher in Coopersville, said. "When they gave me the e-dues form, they should have given me the info upfront, as well, if I did decide to opt out, the specific process that was needed."
Chanski said that in May, she was given a form used to sign up teachers for e-dues so the MEA could take dues automatically from a credit card or bank account. She said she didn't want to sign up for that, and instead of putting down her financial information, she wrote a note on the top of the form saying she no longer wanted to be a part of the union.
Chanski told 24 Hour News 8 the uniserv director, a local MEA representative, acknowledged receiving the note but told Chanski there was more to the process of leaving. Chanski said she didn't receive any further instructions and just assumed "it was a done deal."
MEA bylaws state a member has to submit a letter postmarked between Aug. 1 and Aug. 31 saying he or she no longer wants to be in the union.
MEA Director of Public Affairs, Doug Pratt, confirmed to 24 Hour News 8 in an email that is their process -- and in fact wrote that new members sign a membership form that says exactly that.
But Pratt declined to comment any further, saying the union hasn't yet gotten the official filing yet. Pratt said something like that generally comes by mail, so he did not anticipate being able to comment on the issue for several days.
Chanski is also concerned about her credit. Though she tried to quit back in May, she said the MEA still considers her a union member. That means she has been charged monthly dues since then that she hasn't paid.
"I asked about rumors of my credit being ruined and she said just like a credit card, if I don't pay my bills or my dues then they'll be turning it over to credit collectors," she said. "I hope to have my decision of opting out be honored. I hope to have my credit protected and my reputation as well."
24 Hour News 8 contacted Ari Adler Monday evening to ask about the intent behind the right-to-work legislation. Adler is the director of communications and press secretary for Speaker of the House Jase Bolger (R-Marshall).
"The Freedom to Work legislation was intended to provide workers the opportunity to choose whether or not to belong to a union as soon as possible, which we believed would be anytime after their current contract expired," Adler said in an email.
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