Not every Michigan public school teacher wants to join the MEA. Nor should they be intimidated to do so. (Max Ortiz / The Detroit News)
Michigan schools are joining districts nationwide in making incredible strides to combat bullying in our children’s classrooms, including the one where I teach. New proactive policies, increased attention to this important issue and a commitment to protect people have been the driving forces behind this positive change.
But not everyone is on board with efforts to prevent bullying. While parents, teachers and administrators are fighting hard every day to put an end to it, the Michigan Education Association, our state’s dominant teachers’ union, remains sadly stuck in the past.
Instead of protecting people and standing up for the defenseless, the MEA has instead been reinforcing every ‘union thug’ stereotype by extorting its own members and pushing around the little guy. Eight Michigan teachers recently brought this issue into the light by filing unfair labor practice complaints with the state against the MEA, because they were threatened, lied to and intimidated into paying dues, even though they wanted to leave the union.
One kindergarten teacher was even told the union would ruin her credit if she didn’t give in to their demands, threatening not just her pocketbook, but her financial stability for years to come.
New laws give every Michigan worker the right to choose whether or not to join a union, and these eight teachers were among the many who exercised their rights this fall. But the MEA doesn’t like its members having this freedom and will do anything to keep teachers chained to the union and stuck with their monthly dues payment, even if it means resorting to lies and intimidation.
The union played dirty tricks with paperwork, lied to their own members about their options and actually sent enforcers to classrooms to threaten Michigan teachers. The MEA’s actions go against every value we teachers impart on our children and they send a terrible message to our educators.
These teachers had to stand in front of their class and show children how to do the right thing and take a stand against bullying while looking over their shoulder in fear of their local union official. That’s simply unacceptable.
The MEA is supposed to protect teachers and give them the safe environment they need to succeed. Members believe their dues pay for good service and a union that will stick up for them. But for too many teachers in Michigan, the union is nothing more than a hammer waiting to drop if they ever step out of line.
Michigan teachers deserve better.
The MEA should stop pushing around its members and instead learn from them.
Put an end to this selfish, money-driven bullying and do the right thing. Many Michigan teachers want to stay in the union, but many of them want to leave, too. They shouldn’t have to live in fear for making that choice.
A union is supposed to support its members and help them accomplish their goals. For many Michigan teachers that means breaking free of this vicious cycle and keeping their paycheck to themselves. Instead of bullying these teachers, the MEA should be helping them.
Nowadays, even the smallest child is taught that bullying is wrong and that everyone should be respected and treated fairly.
It’s well past time for the MEA to learn this lesson and do the right thing by protecting every teacher.
Brian Mishler is a Portland Public Schools special education teacher.