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Michigan labor panel: Public employee unions can't restrict timing of resignations

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LANSING, Michigan — A one-month window to quit a public employee union is too restrictive and violates state law, a Michigan labor panel said Tuesday.

The three-member Michigan Employment Relations Commission directed staff to draft a decision that would be considered at a future meeting, possibly July 21.

The case involves four teachers and a 2013 law that makes financial support of unions voluntary. The teachers said they tried to leave the Saginaw Education Association in September 2013 but were told they could quit only in August.

"The commission made several preliminary determinations at the meeting, including that window periods restricting the right of union members to resign at will are a violation" of state law, said Jason Moon, spokesman at the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. "The commission's discussion of this issue was only preliminary."

Michigan Education Association spokesman Doug Pratt said the union doesn't agree with the commission's interpretation. He said the one-month window to resign gives the local and statewide union time to make important budget decisions.

"It's similar to open enrollment in health insurance," Pratt said.

The Mackinac Center Legal Foundation, which represented the teachers, said the MEA has "gone to extreme lengths" to keep people in the union.

If the MEA loses the commission's final decision, it could challenge the ruling at the state appeals court. The three commissioners were appointed by Republican Gov. Rick Snyder, although one is a Democrat.

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