MERC recently held that a school district violated PERA by refusing to provide a union with the contact information for employees within a bargaining unit represented by the union. Lapeer Cmty Schs v SEIU Local 517M, Case No. C18 H-078 (2019). MERC’s decision clarifies that when an employer maintains contact information for employees represented by a union, the employer generally has an obligation to share that information with the union upon request.
In this case, a union representing a school employee bargaining unit sought contact information for the employees in that unit. The union specifically requested the employees’ home addresses, home phone numbers, cell phone numbers, and personal email addresses. The school refused to furnish the requested information, arguing that employees’ contact information was not subject to disclosure because of its personal nature, and that the request would be appropriately denied under the Freedom of Information Act. The school also argued that the disclosure would assist the union only in its collection of dues, which would violate Michigan’s Right-to-Work laws.
The ALJ, whose decision MERC adopted, found the school’s arguments unpersuasive, concluding that the employee contact information could aid the union in the administration of its contract and not just in the collection of union dues.
Under PERA, schools have an affirmative duty to provide unions with information that permits the union to engage in collective bargaining and police the administration of the collective bargaining agreement. Information related to terms and conditions of employment, including wages and benefits, is presumed relevant to the representation of a bargaining unit. Other information that is confidential in nature can either be withheld or shared in a manner that limits further disclosure if there is a legitimate interest in keeping the information confidential.
Although the ALJ recognized that the union might use the employee contact information for the collection of union dues, that fact alone would not violate Michigan’s Right-to-Work laws. The ALJ also noted that it was reasonable to assume that the union could use its members’ contact information to assist with contract administration.
It is important to note that the union’s request for information only related to employees within its bargaining unit. Disclosure likely would not have been required if the union had requested the contact information of employees outside the union’s bargaining unit.
Unions commonly submit PERA requests for employee contact information during the summer. School officials should be familiar with their duty to provide information and should contact a Thrun Law Firm attorney if there are any confidentiality concerns about disclosing the requested information.22