Missouri and Kansas teachers may be interested in how the controversial new right-to-work laws in another state are affecting that state’s education system. In Michigan, some school districts and colleges are approving new contracts that will let them avoid the legislation for a few years. However, side-stepping the laws could cause a problem.

State Republicans are angry that some schools have simply lengthened employee contracts in order to skirt the issue of addressing employee rights. The costs could possibly escalate as high as seven figures for some learning institutions, especially universities. 

Any contracts negotiated since Dec. 10, 2012, could face additional scrutiny as that was the day the bill was actually passed. The intention of the contracts was to work around issues, such as the payment of union dues, and in some cases, the contracts avoid addressing the problems for as long as 10 years.

One representative observed that many schools are struggling financially. The law was enacted to save money by implementing cost-cutting measures through the contracts. However, schools that don’t comply will face a variety of budget cuts. A large percentage of schools were given technology grants but not all were given performance grants.

The House passed another bill to force the schools to comply, but the Senate might not follow suit. Even if the bill does pass, one Senate member said it could evolve as it moves through the Senate.

When it comes to questions of valid contracts, understanding employment and union laws can confuse workers, no matter the state. An employment attorney might be able to help clients with contract negotiations in Missouri and Kansas.

Source: Freep, “School districts, universities skirt right-to-work at a hefty financial risk,” March 27, 2013