By Tom Zulch, POLC Legal Staff
As a union, the POLC/GELC pushes back and levels the playing field as best as it can for each bargaining unit, each union member, and for the good of the POLC/GELC as a whole. The union makes sure public employers neither violate collective bargaining agreements nor the legal rights of union members under PERA.
Because of the union’s ability to push back, the Michigan Republican legislature and Governor attacked unions by passing right-to-work legislation. Right to work affects bargaining units, which are not Act 312 eligible. This generally means police, fire and dispatchers are exempt from the right-to-work law. However, corrections officers, university and college police officers, court and municipal clerks, plus other public employees represented by the POLC/GELC have the right to pay or not pay union dues under the new law.
The choice began March 27, 2013 if the respective employee’s collective bargaining agreement was expired or once the collective bargaining agreement expires. Employees who choose to no longer pay dues are still subject to all provisions of the collective bargaining agreement. They can still file grievances and the POLC/GELC will represent them.
However, not paying dues eliminates their participation in union meetings and union decisions on future collective bargaining agreements.
Non-paying employees have no right to ratify the contract they will be working under. It makes no sense to forfeit your rights in the union. Don’t give up your right to vote and discuss pay, benefits and other conditions of employment.
There are many examples of how the POLC/GELC has benefited its members. One of the most noteworthy efforts by the union occurred in Flushing Township this year. Flushing Township eliminated its entire police department in February 2012, but that didn’t stop the POLC from fighting for its members. The union prevailed on six out of seven issues in an Act 312 arbitration. The POLC used the grievance process and an unfair labor practice to challenge Flushing Township’s final layoff of three officers and a sergeant.
Today, the laid off sergeant is the new Police Chief and the three officers are on patrol, all with full back pay, in the reinstated department.
The POLC sought, though unsuccessfully, to revive a layoff grievance for two other officers, which was ignored by the previous union that represented them. However, even those two officers are expected to be offered work in the Flushing Township Police Department, which was back in service May 1, 2013.
The POLC/GELC fights just as hard for individual rights of employees. Employees in Belding, Cheboygan, Van Buren Township, Owosso, Muskegon Central Dispatch, Milan, Jackson, Holland, Oscoda County, Keego Harbor and many others were fired in violation of just cause. The POLC/GELC fought for those employees and, if not for the union, their careers in public service would be over.
The union was able to have disciplinary unpaid suspensions reduced in Fraser, Flint, Benton Harbor, Douglas, Chesterfield Township, Milford, Eaton County, Romulus, and many more. The POLC/GELC in Bay City, Berrien County, Lincoln Park, Davison Township, Wayne State University, Farmington Hills Dispatch, Grand Rapids Communications, Hazel Park, Monroe, Roosevelt, Sandusky, Petoskey, and other communities settled contract interpretation issues. Act 312 arbitrations in communities including Novi, Wyoming, Norton Shores, Grandville, Riverview, Hillsdale County, and Grand Blanc brought justice to union employees. Fact-findings in Oakland County, Wayne State University, Branch County, Lenawee County and others provided POLC/GELC members with the representation they needed.
Officer involved shootings in Canton, Berkley, Lenawee County, Kentwood, Atlanta, Battle Creek, Mt. Morris, Auburn Hills, Sault Saint Marie and many more were given legal representation by a POLC attorney.
Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, the POLC/GELC is available for employees involved in shootings and other critical incidents.
In all these cases, the POLC/GELC made a stand on behalf of union employees and it doesn’t cost much. Union dues are very low when compared to the UAW and teacher groups, which pay in excess of $70 per month. Paying dues gets you a voice in wages, hours and conditions of employment. Paying dues gets you a voice in Lansing fighting for workers’ rights. Paying dues gets you a fulltime professional business agent. Paying dues gets you a union attorney. Paying dues gets you representation and protection.
It is often said that people hate paying dues because unions only protect problem employees. Many of the employees referenced in this article were veterans who have never been in trouble before. The POLC/GELC has very few repeat offenders.
The union does not protect problem employees, but we do protect just cause and the collective bargaining agreement, whether it’s a problem employee or not.
All members are encouraged to continue paying their dues. You never know when you may be disciplined, terminated, involved in a shooting or other critical incident. You never know when you may need to understand health care or other benefits; need to know what other employees in other cities are earning for similar work; or need to present a united front for a new contract or many other issues.
Don’t let right-to-work legislation weaken our union. Make the choice to pay your dues — you won’t regret it when you need union representation.