- Associated Press - Friday, February 13, 2015

DETROIT (AP) - A 10-year contract between a Detroit-area school district and employees was a “reckless” attempt to get around Michigan’s right-to-work law and force teachers to keep paying union dues, a state labor board said Friday.

In a 2-1 decision, the Michigan Employment Relations Commission ordered the Taylor district and the Taylor Federation of Teachers to take no adverse action against employees who decline to support the union.

The decade-long side contract was signed just weeks before Michigan’s right-to-work law took effect in 2013. The law says workers can’t be forced to financially support a union to keep their job.

Unions and more than 100 school districts scrambled to write new contracts before the law kicked in because it wouldn’t apply until a contract expired. Wayne State University in Detroit approved an eight-year contract with faculty.

“Imposing a lengthy financial burden on bargaining unit members, in order to avoid the application of a state law for 10 years, is arbitrary, indifferent and reckless,” Republican commission members Edward Callaghan and Bob LaBrant said in finding violations by the Taylor district and the union.

Natalie Yaw, a Democrat, disagreed, saying the length of the contract was “neither excessive nor unenforceable as against public policy.” She warned that the decision will open “floodgates of litigation” by employees who don’t like certain provisions in contracts approved by a majority.

“The record demonstrates that the employer and the union negotiated in good faith and reached agreements that were acceptable to both,” Yaw said of the Taylor deal.

The agreement was made to maintain peace between the union and the district. Separately, teachers agreed to a 10 percent pay cut and other concessions.

“We are confident that this blatantly political decision will be overturned by the court of appeals,” said David Hecker, president of AFT Michigan, the Michigan affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.

The challenge was filed by three teachers who were represented by the Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, but the commission’s decision would apply to all members of the Taylor union, attorney Derk Wilcox said.

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Follow Ed White at https://twitter.com/edwhiteap


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