Kindergarten teacher sues MEA over union requirement

8:56 PM, Oct 21, 2013   |    comments
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Miriam Chanski

COOPERSVILLE, Mich. (WZZM) -- If she doesn't pay her union dues, a kindergarten teacher says the Michigan Education Association is threatening to turn her over to a collection agency and ruin her credit.

Miriam Chanski, 24, says she informed the MEA in May she was quitting the teachers union, didn't want their representation, and would no longer be paying dues.

"At that point, I thought I was finished and I was out of the union," said Chanski. But in July, Chanski says she received a letter stating there was more to the process of opting out of the union.

"It surprised me that there would be more to the process-- I had not heard anything else," said Chanski.

Now the dispute has erupted into a legal battle because union leaders say the Coopersville kindergarten teacher didn't file the correct paperwork at the proper time meaning she will be in the union for at least another year.

During a telephone interview with the Ottawa County union director, Krista Abbot told WZZM 13 about a specific form teachers must fill out to quit the union. That form must be submitted between August 1 and 31. Abbot says the rules are all spelled out in a form teachers sign when they first join the union.

in September, the president of our union came into my classroom before school and told me she was aware I had wanted to opt out of the union and asked if I had sent in another form in August," recalled Chanski. "I told her I was unaware of another form to send in, I was unaware of the August dates, and she told me at that point if I had not sent in that form, I might have missed my chance to opt out of the union."

Chanski says she was warned if she did not pay her dues, it would negatively impact her credit and the MEA would turn her over to a collection agency.

Chanski says the debate is not about why she doesn't want to be part of the MEA, but rather her right to not to be forced to be in a union after Governor Snyder signed a bill making Michigan a Right to Work State.

"I chose to opt out and it's not being honored," said Chanski.

The union didn't share with WZZM the opt out form. In addition to the Coopersville kindergarten teacher, there are at least seven other members filing suit against the MEA saying they were unaware of the August window demanding to get out to the union without any damage to their credit history for not paying dues.

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