Rob Wiersema teaches high school economics, and he knows the merits of a simple cost-benefit analysis.
Leaving the Michigan Education Association, he surmised, made economic sense. Another professional association he found, offered better benefits at a lower cost.
But his simple economics become complicated. The union didn’t want him to go.
In December 2012, Michigan passed a Right to Work law, which allowed teachers and other workers to keep their jobs without belonging to the union. Until then, union membership was all but a requirement for employment.
“I thought, great, I’m out,” Wiersema said. “As soon as I heard you could leave, I thought, great. My contract is up in 2013. I sent letters to the MEA and the local association to say I quit, but it obviously didn’t work.”
He called the union and sent letters asking how to leave, but he got no reply. In June, he sent a “quit letter” to the state and local branches and the school. In July, union dues showed up on his credit card.
“I disputed the charge and said I wasn’t going to pay it,” he said. “Then I heard the MEA was going to go after people who didn’t pay it and have their credit reports take a hit.”
The MEA contends that teachers can leave the union in August only.
“People who thought they could exercise their right-to-work rights have unfortunately gotten a rude awakening that (the MEA is) now sending collection notices home,” said Vincent Vernuccio, director of labor policy for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. “If they have not opted out during the narrow window during August, they’re sending a collection agency after them.”