Federal court says schools can stop deducting dues

By Corey Williams

Associated Press

DETROIT (AP) -- Michigan public school districts can stop collecting union dues from teachers and other employees through payroll deduction, according to a 2-1 federal appeals court ruling.

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati last Thursday overturned a Detroit federal court preliminary injunction against Michigan's Public Act 53, which banned the automatic union dues deductions from paychecks.

Supporters said the law put more money in teachers' paychecks, and they could then pay their union dues if they wish. Opponents consider it another attack on organized labor in the state by Michigan's Republican-controlled Legislature, which passed it, and Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, who signed the law.

The Michigan Education Association and other unions challenged the constitutionality of the state law in federal court in Detroit saying in a complaint that it "selectively targets public school employee unions and their members by outlawing dues deduction for them only."

Their complaint also said payroll deduction is the most effective and efficient means for workers to financially support their unions and has been used for decades in Michigan.

U.S. District Court Judge Denise Page Hood issued the preliminary injunction in June 2012. That was appealed by the state Attorney General's office.

The Appeals Court ruling rejected the First Amendment violation claims and that the law restricts unions' freedom of speech.

"They remain free to speak about whatever they wish," wrote Appeals Judge Raymond Kethledge in the majority opinion. " ... and payroll deductions are all that Public Act 53 denies the unions here."

The state is "pleased with the court's decision to uphold state law and the Constitution," Joy Yearout, spokeswoman for Attorney General Bill Schuette, said in an emailed statement.

Published: Mon, May 13, 2013