Alternative Dues: An Interview With the Former Controller of the MEA

We asked Brandon Teenier, from the Michigan Education Association (MEA), a few question about how alternative dues was the solution.
An Interview With the Former Controller of the MEA

Brandon Teenier was with the Michigan Education Association (MEA) through a pivotal period in its history. In March of 2013, Michigan Governor, Rick Snyder, passed a Right to Work (RTW) bill that was coupled with loss of payroll for public educators.

This change left the MEA in a position where they had to come up with a strategy to collect dues from their members through an entirely different method to maintain cash flow for operations and providing member benefits to their members.

We sat down with Brandon and asked him a few question about his experience during that process and how technology was the solution to the challenge at hand.


Question 1

BH: As the former Controller for the (MEA), where both Right to Work (RTW) and the inability to use payroll deduction to collect dues were factors, what specific challenges did you face in a financial role?

Brandon: The biggest challenge was coming up with an Organization wide strategy to determine a solution that was most beneficial for our members, as well as, addressing key strategic initiatives to successfully implement the solution.

Also, as an Organization conceptualizing how we can leverage new technologies and systems to process 100,000 member invoices/payments in a timely and effective manner pushed us outside of our comfort zone. Lastly, we needed visibility to member data. Therefore, implementing a robust reporting solution was a must to ensure we could analyze the data in real-time to make impactful business decisions on an ongoing basis.


“The biggest benefit we didn’t realize the full impact of until we went live, is how much time is allowed us to focus on our members and providing them enhanced member service throughout the organization.”


Question 2

BH: Both RTW and the loss of payroll impacted the MEA and the way they do business, what was a benefit of turning to technology that you hadn’t anticipated when the solution was originally selected?

Brandon: The biggest benefit we didn’t realize the full impact of until we went live, is how much time it allowed us to focus on our members and providing them enhanced member service throughout the Organization.

In addition, we came to realize how well the technology and business partnership strategically aligned. We understood throughout the implementation phase and all the way through our go-live date that Billhighway not only understood our technology needs, but were a true partner throughout the entire process.


Question 3

BH: We’ve seen a lot of labor unions and organizations consider building a solution themselves as an option to prepare for a situation like this, did the MEA consider building as an option?

Brandon: Building a solution in-house may be possible for various Organizations; however, timing is paramount. We needed to find a solution and needed it yesterday.

In today’s world things change overnight and labor unions are not immune to ever-changing technology or legislation. Evaluating existing systems and future needs of the Organization need to be built into the strategic planning process.


Question 4

BH: What advice would you give to labor organizations that are leaning towards technology as a solution because legislation changes are pushing them that direction or simply because they want to be proactive?

Brandon: Start planning now! Implementing an Organization wide CRM, in combination with billing and payment capabilities with complex dues structures with 100,000 members equates to processing millions of invoices and payments on an annual basis.

That is a lot of transactions! Members, Board Members and Executives are going to want this to happen in real time with precise deliverables to ensure strategic initiates are executed in a timely manner.


Question 5

BH: With legislative impact on labor unions being a hot topic of conversation, specifically Friedrichs vs. California School Teachers, how do you foresee legislation impacting the future of technology in unions?

Brandon: The changing legislative landscape and implementing strategic technology initiatives should be discussed now. Now is the time to take internal inventory of current systems and identify how they are currently leveraged.

Are they ideal for focusing on adding member value if legislation changes? Can they exist in a post-payroll deduction world? If not, it is time to start planning for the future of leveraging technology into the Organizations strategic, enterprise-wide initiatives.