Dexter Bus Drivers Dump International Union

School employees form local bargaining unit

A new union was born recently in the Ann Arbor suburb of Dexter when several transportation employees in the Dexter Community Schools rallied together to form the West Washtenaw Bus Drivers and Monitors Association.

The new union is part of a growing type of labor organizing in Michigan, that of local-only unions. What makes many of these new unions special is that they are formed after workers rejected established larger unions.

The now former International Union of Operating Engineers members started a campaign earlier this year to leave their international union. The members were inspired by the success of Roscommon teachers who decertified from the Michigan Education Association and formed their own local-only union.

Knowing that they did not have the votes to withstand a decertification election, the IUOE Local 324 officially "disclaimed interest in representing employees employed by the Dexter Community Schools" on March 28.

Reasons given for the decertification attempt were much the same as the teachers in Roscommon. Union members said that local-only representation was better than a large conglomerate union nowhere near the bargaining unit.

As Jim Perialas, the Roscommon teacher who lead the charge to leave the MEA and form the local union, explains in this video, how his colleagues are doing much better with local control. 

As Perialas wrote in The Detroit News and in Michigan Capitol Confidential, Roscommon teachers are saving $400 a year in dues and getting better representation for the money.

In response to the news about Dexter, Perialas said, "Union members across the state are sick and tired of 'business as usual' with regard to labor unions. We are entering a new and exciting era of a new type of unionism. Unions big and small must be responsive to their members and provide them with a value proposition, or else they will now exercise other options."

As state and international unions spend more time and money on issues outside the purview of direct representation, union members across the state may continue to see they will get better service and pay less money to local-only unions that are more in touch with their needs.

F. Vincent Vernuccio is director of Labor Policy at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy.