Most people expect unions to protect workers, not attack their credit ratings. The Michigan Education Association (MEA) does not share these expectations. The union has threatened to damage the credit ratings of teachers who opt out of union dues.
Michigan recently became a right-to-work state, meaning workers in Michigan no longer need to pay union dues to keep their jobs. However, unions have decided not to let their members go easily. Steven Cook, president of the Michigan Education Association, announced plans to “use any legal means at our disposal to collect the dues.”
This includes sending collection agencies after teachers who don’t jump through union hoops. In May, Miriam Chanski, a 24-year-old kindergarten teacher in Coopersville, decided to leave the MEA. She informed the union of her choice and stopped paying dues. After receiving an acknowledgement letter from her union local, she believed she had done all she needed to do.
The union did not. In September, the MEA informed her that she could not leave until August. Since she had submitted her resignation form in May, the union intended to charge her dues for the 2013–2014 school year. If she didn’t give them her bank account or credit card information, the union said it would refer her to a collection agency, damaging her credit rating if she did not pay.
The August opt-out window came as a complete surprise to Chanski. The union never mentioned that fact when she left in May or in any of the MEA meetings she attended. It did not mention the window when it acknowledged her resignation. Not until August had passed did the union inform her she needed to resign then.
By hiding this information the MEA has effectively forced Chanski to choose between paying dues that can run over $600 a year or watch her credit rating suffer. In a recent interview Chanski explained, “I am a 24-year-old woman. Who knows what I’ll be doing some day, [maybe] buying a house someday? My credit is very personal to me and it’s something I take pride in.”
Unions should not mislead or threaten teachers who exercise their legal rights. With the assistance of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, Chanski and six other Michigan teachers have filed a lawsuit seeking permission to leave the MEA at any time. Like many teachers, Miriam Chanski has shown love and dedication for her students. An organization claiming to represent workers should not hurt teacher’s credit ratings just to get its way.