At Lusk Albertson, we report the good and the bad news, and the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) released one decision of note in May that falls in the latter category. In Lapeer Comm Sch, Case No. C18 H‑078, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) determined that the employer committed a violation of the Public Employment Relations Act (PERA). In that case, the union requested that the employer furnish information about bargaining unit members, as the union was transitioning and updating its database and dues collection software system. For each member, the union requested a home address, building location, full‑time/part‑time status, email address, hire date, birth date, classification, and cell phone number. The employer refused to provide information for home addresses, personal emails, and cell phone numbers. The union then filed an unfair labor practice charge.
Under the PERA, an employer must supply a union with requested information that permits the union to engage in collective bargaining and police the administration of its collective bargaining agreement. The employer is duty‑bound to disclose the information as long as there is a reasonable probability the information will help the union carry out these tasks.
In Lapeer Comm Sch, the employer argued that, based upon (1) case law concerning disclosure of public employee addresses and contact information and (2) Michigan’s right‑to‑work laws, public employees have a right to be free from unions. By extension, they are entitled to be free from employer interference with that right. The ALJ disagreed, reasoning that “there is a reasonable probability that the home addresses and telephone numbers of [the] bargaining unit members will be of use to the Union in carrying out its statutory duties[.]” The ALJ found the cited case law inapposite, and he found that the right‑to‑work laws did not curtail the employer’s obligation to provide the type of information requested in this case. Consequently, the ALJ found an unfair labor practice and ordered the employer to furnish the union with the requested information.Because no exceptions were filed, the decision was adopted by MERC without further analysis. The absence of exceptions means the decision, while instructive, is not binding. Still, in light of this decision, there is likely to be an increase in requests from unions for the type of personal information outlined above, and employers will have an uphill battle should they deny those requests.
The case may be accessed here.