Why Associate with MEA-NEA?


Many teachers continue paying dues to Michigan Education Association (MEA) whose leadership has earned a reputation for giving itself hefty raises, not to mention the fact that MEA-NEA’s leadership is clearly a promoter of a Progressive Left agenda.  In the past, Phyllis Schlafly has documented the Progressive Left agenda of the NEA, but the NEA’s own annual resolutions speak volumes in and of themselves.  MEA’s delegates took part in the annual summer convention that adopted these resolutions.

My wife and I are conservatives, and we are public school teachers.  On principle we oppose paying dues to MEA-NEA, and we were finally able to leave the union altogether thanks to Michigan’s Right to Work law.  Although both of us asked our local union to provide an option for local membership only, our requests were flatly rejected.  If our local union disassociated from MEA-NEA the way Roscommon teachers did, it is safe to say that we would probably join the local union.

It was no surprise to read in Michigan Capitol Confidential this past week that MEA president, Steve Cook, had somehow secured a “sweetheart” deal for himself, whereby he is still employed – on paper – by the Lansing School District, even though he is actually working for the MEA (whose members’ dues foot the bill for his $200,000+ annual salary and benefits package).  Isn’t it ironic that Mr. Cook appears to be feathering his nest nicely while dues paying members of the MEA are fortunate if they are able to negotiate a salary anywhere near what they used to earn before Obamanomics hit the average American family’s household budget like a lead brick?

What benefit does MEA membership provide that teachers can’t get elsewhere and at less expense?

When my wife and I left the union, dues cost over $900 annually – over $1,800 out of our total annual household budget.  According to friends who are still being billed by the union, dues are rumored to be over $1,200 annually in our district.  Although, I haven’t seen a solid figure on that.  Whatever they’re paying MEA-NEA now, it is a fact that in our school district we are being paid 12% less than we once were.  While I understand that some of my conservative friends think I already earn too much money, my point here is this:  under current economic conditions how can union leadership – in good conscience – increase dues charges while the union’s top leaders continue to give themselves big raises?

I’m glad I’m not paying their salaries anymore.  Sad to discover, though, that all of us who pay taxes in Michigan will be paying for Mr. “Six Figure Salary” Steve Cook’s public pension for a para-professional teaching job he hasn’t actually performed in years.

Speaks volumes about MEA leadership’s opinion of the taxpayer, as well as their dues paying members who are part of that group.  Talk about double dipping.  Those dues paying members cover his salary (through their dues), and his public pension (through their taxes).  I’d call that a bad return for services (not) rendered.  I know how tight our household budget is, and we definitely don’t miss paying dues to the self-serving MEA-NEA.

Why do so many teachers, therefore, continue paying dues to MEA-NEA?

Many of our conservative teaching colleagues (more than half of public school teachers identify themselves as conservative) have expressed fear of leaving the union.  Many cite their concerns that we will be giving up liability insurance provided by the union.  Additionally, there is the fear that leaving the union might affect members’ access to affordable healthcare.

So, what is a conservative teacher to do?  There are many options (even if your Association Representative isn’t sharing this information with you).

Consider the following facts.

First of all, there are alternative sources for liability insurance.  My wife and I purchased liability insurance through the Association of American Educators at one sixth the cost of current union dues.  More significantly, the fact that we no longer fund MEA-NEA’s Progressive Left agenda is, in our shared opinion, PRICELESS.

Secondly, many teachers fear losing their health insurance coverage.  Guess what, the mechanism by which we will all eventually lose healthcare insurance as we once knew it in America was made possible thanks to NEA’s pivotal role in lobbying for the ill-named “Affordable Healthcare Act”.  We are now beginning to see how the “Affordable Healthcare Act” is impacting health insurance costs, and it’s not a pretty picture.

Lastly, for a conservative teacher, do the costs outweigh the benefits of continued financial support to MEA-NEA?  And I am not here referring just to the cost-savings in one’s household budget.  NEA once included a webpage in the public access section of its official website that alarmed conservative teachers like me.   It was titled, “Recommended Reading: Saul Alinsky, the American Organizer”.  Although the webpage has since been removed from public access, this occurred only after NEA received considerable backlash for seemingly embracing not only Alinsky’s tactics, but his ideology as well. The webpage included a review of Alinksy’s books, “Reveille for Radicals,” and “Rules for Radicals”.  The review was brief – only 1,195 words in length.  Therefore, I found it especially significant that the reviewer included – without apology, nor disclaimer – the following quote:

“Society has good reason to fear the Radical.  Every shaking advance of mankind toward equality and justice has come from the Radical.  He hits, he hurts, he is dangerous.  Conservative interests know that while Liberals are most adept at breaking their own necks with their tongues, Radicals are most adept at breaking the necks of Conservatives.”

Why NEA so openly showcased their contempt for conservatives at that time (the html file copy I made of the webpage is dated May 6, 2011) is beyond me.  But I’m glad NEA did it because it finally pushed me to ask more overtly than ever:  “How do the ‘benefits’ of belonging to the teachers’ union outweigh the ‘costs’ of providing material support to an organization that is so openly hostile to the Principles of Liberty?”

Tim Keller
About Tim Keller
Tim Keller loves God, America and his Family. He has taught history, government, speech and writing at the secondary level since 1997.
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