Saturday, July 25, 2015

So, why pay union dues?

Greetings MEA Members of 7K & 7IJ!
A lot of you most likely received emails from a "Mary" and the Mackinaw Center back in June about your rights to opt-out, and how the union did nothing for Mary.  Steve Cook did write a reply to that accusation that was sent out some time ago..   The "essay" below was a guest editorial I wrote for the Summer  7IJ Coordinating Council Newsletter.   Some of you saw it in June, but I thought I would send it out again.   Why?  I believe that so much of what we receive from our MEA is invisible to us as members, and I want to tell you about how much the MEA and NEA provides for us that costs real money.....thus the need for our dues!

Today I am pondering over the
question, "Why belong to a union?".
I am thinking of a MILLION reasons someone should
belong to a union! Where do I start?
So much of what a union provides
is invisible to us on an everyday
level, but it is so important. Yes, with
membership we can vote for officers,
we can vote for ratification of Letters
Of Understanding and contracts,
and we can get representation when
there are disciplinary issues, or work
One of the most important reasons
that I feel union membership is
important is because we educators
need a voice in the process of
educational decisions. We are the
experts! All of you have years of
education and experience! Why
should we not be the leaders in the
voice for our profession?  How do
we guarantee that voice? I believe
it is through our union.
At the state level, the MEA lobbies for
our interests at the legislative level.
We can't all be in Lansing, so having our dues support
our MEA to be our advocate seems
MORE important than ever. The
MEA also keeps us informed of issues
occurring at the state level that affect
us as educators by publishing "Capital
Comments" and contacting our local
union leaders.
The MEA provides training for your
local leaders (like me) so they can
enter bargaining and grievances
knowing what to look for and how to
approach difficult situations. They
provide training in current laws and
practices. If we (local leaders) have a
legal question, we or our UniServ
Directors can call for legal advice
from the MEA. There is an MEA
economist that can provide research
and information on school finances,
and can give us specific information
about our individual school's finances.
None of us could do that all on our
own. Our organization and joining of
forces allows all these things to exist
and are essential to the continuation
of our public school careers.
The same kind of services and
educational advocacy occur at the
national level through our membership
in NEA. Those advocacy services as
described above occur at the national
level as well. The current work on the
reform of ESEA is a perfect example of where the NEA
is working for our good. Think of the policies and funding
that are set by our president, his cabinet,
and our national congress. How could
we all have a voice in those decisions?
And what would happen if we did not
have a voice in those decisions? We
need advocates at the national level,
At a local level, belonging to a union
gives you the power of numbers. If each
one of us had to negotiate our own pay
and benefits, I shutter to think what might
happen. Would the district act in our
best interests? They probably would
try, but think about these financially
difficult times. If health insurance
wasn't bargained by the union, that
would be a great place for them to cut
costs. If they could save millions on
salaries, why not have us take 10% pay
cuts (like some other nearby districts)
and never allow step increases? We have
to have a voice and backing in these kinds of
Reflect back, what are some issues you've had
to deal with as a teacher? Where would
you be or what would have happen if
you had not had the union contract to
back you up? Did you need to call me
or our MEA UniServ Director? What
if you didn't have someone to talk to
besides management?
Another example, sad to say, is that some crazy accusations are
made about teachers….some are true,
but most are not. If you did not have a
union to stand behind you, how would
those crazy accusations be treated,
even if they were false? How would
you be treated? Would there be any
guarantee of fair treatment or of
maintaining your job?

No union contract can be perfect and
sometimes people are not protected or
represented in a way they wish, but
what if the union did not exist? I think
a lot of us would not have jobs.
Certainly, my salary and benefits
(especially in these really financially
strapped times) would not be what
they are.
We need to stick together and I believe
the union, the MEA/NEA/WLEA, is
the best way to do that. There is
power in numbers. We can't do this
without support and thus, there is an
expense to these services; thus, our dues.
Over time,
I have no doubt that I have benefited
from the cost of my dues I have paid.
They have more than been returned
in services, salary, and benefits.
Times are difficult for educators right
now, and this is the very best time for all of us to
stick together and support our union at all levels!