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MEA loses court battle to force Ann Arbor teacher to pay union dues

The Michigan Education Association unsuccessfully sued Ann Arbor teacher Deborah L. Wolter (above) for more than $3,000 of unpaid dues the union claimed she owed them.

(The Center Square) – The Michigan Education Association cannot force an Ann Arbor teacher to pay dues that the union alleged she owed.

As a result of Friday’s court decision, the MEA must cease their demands for dues payments, must update their records to show the teacher is not an MEA member, and may not have further contact with the teacher.

The MEA sued Deborah Wolter this past January in Michigan District Court, claiming the teacher owed past dues totaling more than $3,000 since September 2014.

Wolter and her National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation attorneys argued the teacher had resigned from the MEA in 2014 and, therefore, the union’s demand for dues was rendered moot as well as illegal since Michigan became a right-to-work state in March 2013.

With fellow Ann Arbor teachers Jeffrey Finnan and Cory Merante, Wolter is the third teacher from her school and more than a dozen other Michigan teachers to successfully extricate themselves from paying union dues with free legal assistance from the foundation.

The lawsuit filed by Finnan and Merante was against the Ann Arbor Education Association, and culminated in a determination from the Michigan Court of Appeals that the union violated the teachers’ rights under the state’s Right to Work law by asserting they must continue to pay union dues after both teachers resigned their union membership.

MEA attorneys argued Wolter “did not resign membership with [MEA] prior to the accrual of the debt.” Her attorneys provided an August 2014 letter in Wolter’s records in which she expressed her resignation from membership in the union.

Wolter works as a literacy consultant for Ann Arbor Public Schools. Deaf since birth, she has worked in the education field for more than 20 years, and has published two books and many journal essays on literacy.

“Once again, a Michigan educator has successfully thwarted an attempt by MEA union bosses to continue to collect dues in blatant violation of Michigan’s Right to Work law,” National Right to Work Foundation President Mark Mix said in a statement.

“Foundation staff attorneys have already brought more than 120 cases for Michigan workers since the state’s Right to Work law went into effect in 2013, and will file as many more as necessary to ensure that Wolverine State employees are fully protected from illegal union boss cash grabs.”

In an email to The Center Square, National Right to Work Foundation Vice President Patrick Semmens wrote: “The sheer number of workers who have needed to bring legal action to defend their rights against Michigan union boss money grabs shows how willing union officials are to violate the rights of those they claim to represent. If union bosses spent more time working to attract the voluntarily support of rank-and-file workers, maybe they wouldn’t be so threatened by individual workers having the right to decide whether or not the union is worthy of their support.”

The MEA did not respond to a request for a comment.

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