Michigan: Teachers Trying to Hide Union Activism in School Email Accounts

-By Warner Todd Huston

Michigan's union thugs have found a new way to hide their on-the-job union activism from the prying eyes of public transparency -- or at least they think they have. Activist school teachers are using their state-sponsored email accounts to discuss their strike ideas, their union work slow down ideas and other illegal activities but are claiming that these emails are "personal" and therefore should not be open to Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) requests by the state's budget hawks, government transparency advocates, and the news media.

Michigan's Mackinac Center for Public Policy recently reported that the Michigan Education Association has sent out messages to its members that they should exclude any emails sent from school-owned email accounts in FOIA requests because they are "personal" emails and are legally not eligible for FOIA requests. The Mackinac Center discovered that MEA President Iris Salters sent an email to thousands of teachers school email accounts informing them of "crisis activities" and "work stoppages" and the folks at Mackinac wondered how many teachers used their official email accounts to plan activities that are illegal under Michigan law (strikes by teachers are illegal in Michigan).

So Mackinac sent out some FOIA requests to see what they could find. This action brought the email from the MEA's attorney telling teachers that their "personal emails" were not liable to be turned over in a FOIA request.

Naturally, the MEA's self-serving interpretation is wrong. These school emails are not personal emails under the law.

But Robin Luce-Herrmann, general counsel to the Michigan Press Association, said she thinks Przybylowicz has an overbroad interpretation of the Court of Appeals ruling. Herrmann said emails in the Howell case involving teacher/union members and the administration were released pursuant to FOIA. She said the Court of Appeals ruling said that emails were not considered "public records" solely because they were in a teacher's email. Herrmann said emails related to "crisis activity" or "job action" involves teachers acting in their official capacity as public employers.

Mackinac hopes to clear this up with a motion filed to the Michigan Supreme Court requesting this be taken up.

But isn't this just like a union? Still using state funded facilities and state funded communications systems to hide the sort of activism that is not only illegal under Michigan law but will result in bloated budgets that taxpayers will be forced to pay for and all the while trying to hide that activism from the people.

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