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Michigan Appeals Court: Union dues deduction form is a binding contract

Even in a Right-to-Work state, employees are not free to stop paying union dues anytime they want, Michigan Appeals Court rules.

In a blow to workers in Right-to-Work states who believe they can simply stop paying union dues whenever they like, the Michigan Court of Appeals has recently ruled that, while a union member can resign union membership, (s)he cannot stop paying union dues if (s)he missed the window period to stop dues payments.

“On August 10, 2017,” reports JD Supra, “the Michigan Court of Appeals finally delivered an opinion on the lawfulness of so called “window periods” for revoking union dues obligations (as opposed to union membership) for Michigan public sector employees.”

The court, in an unpublished opinion (Teamsters Local 214 v Pauline Beutler), ruled that the authorization card signed by Ms. Beutler contained language which “clearly, explicitly, and unmistakably” contained an obligation for her to pay union dues for a specified period, regardless of her membership status in the union, and therefore, constituted “a binding waiver of her right to discontinue her financial support of the union at will.”

. . . .

In 2013, Ms. Beutler sent a letter to the union attempting to revoke her union dues obligation. The letter was sent outside the “window period” set forth in the authorization (the 60-75 day period). The union refused to honor the revocation stating that it was “a separate independent contract” and that it did not now allow her to revoke her “financial obligation at this time.” Ms. Beutler filed an unfair labor practice charge against the union.

The Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) held that Ms. Beutler’s letter was sufficient upon receipt for her to resign her membership in the union, but that her obligation to continue paying union dues extended until the next resignation window.

The bottom line is this: Despite Michigan’s Right-to-Work state status, while union membership may not be mandatory, paying union dues can be mandatory if an employee misses the window of time to rescind his or her dues deduction authorization.

Read more here.

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