After seven years in court, Michigan’s teachers won a victory over Attorney General Bill Schuette and the Snyder administration in the Michigan Supreme Court to the tune of $550 million that had previously been withheld.
A 2010 law required teachers and other school personnel to contribute 3 percent of their salaries toward their retirement health care, but by 2013, the money collected went into escrow because of a legal challenge.
In the beginning of November, teachers with the Michigan Educators Association and the American Federation of Teachers Michigan, who challenged the 2010 law from the Snyder administration, held a candlelight vigil to “shine a light” on the case and remind people it still mattered.
The courts have consistently found the state’s actions to be unconstitutional and that the money should be returned to the school employees who earned it via the state-paid-for retiree health benefits, but the state continued its appeal of those cases.
And today, the Supreme Court issued an order affirming the lower court, agreeing the money had been collected unconstitutionally.
Democrats and union supporters rejoiced in the decision.
“The decision made by the Supreme Court today is long-overdue justice for Michigan’s teachers and support staff. This sends a message to the governor that taking money out of the pockets of working families to balance the budget will not fly, and he cannot expect teachers to personally bear the financial burden of his administration’s backwards priorities,” Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich (D-Flint) said in a statement.
Logistics still need to be determined for how school employees will be refunded, the AFT and MEA noted in a statement.
“I cannot imagine a better pre-holiday gift to Michigan’s school employees than getting their hard- earned money returned to them,” MEA President Paula Herbart said. “This is the culmination of years of work by both AFT Michigan and MEA on behalf of our members. This reinforces why being a member of a union matters – working collectively, we won this case that no individual could have fought for themselves.”
MEA and AFT Michigan will inform members about details on how the money will be returned as those details become available.