Panel: State workers must reauthorize union dues deduction

Michigan
generic michigan capitol building lansing 1

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan’s 33,800 unionized state employees will have to reauthorize the deduction of dues from their paycheck every year or the contributions will stop under a rule change adopted by a panel on Monday over objections from Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and labor leaders.

The Civil Service Commission, whose members were appointed by Republican former Gov. Rick Snyder, approved the revision on a 3-1 vote.

Starting Oct. 4, an authorization to deduct dues will expire if it was not authorized or reauthorized in the previous year. Beginning in 2022, the state will discontinue “agency” fees, which are paid by workers who do not wish to be members of a union to cover collective bargaining costs.

In 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that such “fair share” fees were unconstitutional. Michigan’s 2012 “right-to-work” laws prohibit an employer and a union from signing a contract that would require workers to pay dues or fees to the union that represents them.

The Michigan State AFL-CIO said there was no justification for “Rick Snyder’s lame-duck” panel to prohibit voluntary service fees or require union members to annually opt in to voluntary dues deductions.

“This action has no other purpose than to impose arbitrary hardships on bargaining units, create turmoil in workplaces during a historic pandemic and a global recession, and disrupt the work that unions do on behalf of these state workers. It’s unconstitutional, it’s unsupported by any recent laws or court decisions, and it’s just plain wrong,” said president Ron Bieber.

The commission’s action was applauded by conservatives who pushed for it.

The Midland-based Mackinac Center for Public Policy said the 2018 high court ruling, known as Janus, requires that employees give “clear and compelling evidence” that they consent to having dues removed from their paychecks. The group contended that the annual renewals will ensure such consent is knowingly and freely given.

“Michigan workers deserve to know where the money from their hard-earned paycheck is going,” said Steve Delie, legal counsel and director of the Mackinac Center’s Workers for Opportunity initiative. “Implementation of these rule changes is a positive step towards protecting workers across the state.”

Of the state’s 48,000 employees, 33,804 — or 70% — are represented by a union. Slightly more than 26,000 had dues deducted in the last pay period, 545 paid agency fees and 7,250 — or 21% of the unionized workforce — paid neither, said Matt Fedorchuk, deputy state personnel director. About 25,000 will need to reauthorize in coming months to continue having dues or fees deducted, he said.

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