Why are people leaving the MEA?

Stories from around the state

Tell us your stories email stories@augustoptout.org.

Lisa Jelenek
Teacher
Laingsburg Public Schools

Last year I wished to opt out of the union because I do not agree with many of the positions of the MEA or NEA and also I missed the August window which I was totally unaware of due to a contract I had supposedly signed back in 2001!

Peter Boyd
Science Teacher
Martin Public Schools

When I was first hired in the public schools, I was told I had no choice but to join the union. Being new, I went along but it seemed wrong to me. I also resented the fact that the union always told me which candidates to support in an election and used dues money to support causes that I did not believe in.

After being in the union for over 10 years I had no reason to stay. I saw incompetent teachers keeping their jobs under union protection and was told that once you're tenured, you would have to commit a crime to lose your job. How can I justify an organization that protects those who are the worst for kids?

I also didn’t like the “we versus them” mentality that would develop at every contract negotiation. I was always under the impression that we were all supposed to be in it for the good of kids.

Tim Haan
Teacher
Lowell Public Schools

I have been an educator in the state of Michigan for 24 years and after long consideration, I decided to withdraw from the Michigan Education Association now that state law allows for it because of several basic principles. First, I disagree with a “closed-shop.” If a person wants to join a union – public or private – it should be their individual choice to do so. Second, since taxpayer money pays my salary and benefits, I do not think that public money should indirectly be funding a union. Essentially, the public is supporting the MEA and I believe that is wrong. Lastly, I have grown increasingly frustrated at the massive amounts of money the MEA has given to political candidates – in and out of our state – that I do not ideologically support. I base my vote on a wide variety of political issues and stances, most of which run counter to MEA-backed candidates. If I want to give money to finance campaigns, I want to determine which candidate will benefit; I refuse to allow the MEA to make that choice for me any longer.

Rob Wiersema
Social Studies Teacher
Hopkins Public Schools

I left the MEA and my local 'association' when the first breath of freedom was felt. The coercive nature of the union's integration into the very fabric of public education in Michigan was abhorrent to me, yet to teach and reach the youth of our state, I had to either join or pay the equivalent in dues. Being a teacher of social sciences, I felt an obligation to participate in the local's political process of voting, so I joined. I have found a viable alternative to the MEA that provides me with tangible benefits (discounts to restaurants and services my family actually uses) such as double the liability insurance for about one seventh the amount of money I was paying in dues to the MEA. The best part of my new teacher association? It is apolitical and actually focuses on teacher professional development

Judy Celano
Reading Specialist
Grand Haven Public Schools

My name is Judy Celano and I am an elementary reading specialist in Grand Haven, Michigan. When I realized that my union's position on social issues was in direct opposition to my religious beliefs, I could not in good conscience give any more of my money for union dues. In 2005, I successfully became a Religious Objector to NEA, MEA, and GHEA.

Pam Kilpatrick
Secretary
Brighton Public Schools

I have been employed by Brighton Area Schools since 1997 and worked my way up from a part-time cafeteria job to building secretary. I have taken pride in my work and am the biggest critic of my job performance. All my evaluations have been excellent and I have never asked my union to represent me in any type of grievance nor do I intend to. In early September I sent a letter by certified mail to my union president and MEA representative in Howell that I was withdrawing from the union. A few weeks later, I received a bill from the union for dues. My union did not communicate over the summer what the procedure was going to be for the current school year. I fear my union will send me to a collections agency and threaten my excellent credit rating. I believe that employees should be able to choose whether to participate in a union or not, and I don't feel that I should have to pay dues to an organization when I don't intend to benefit from their services.

Beth Rayner
Teacher
Lakeview Public Schools

Our union pushed through a five-year contract last March within days of the right-to-work legislation enactment. So, we are all stuck either paying full dues or non-members fees for the next four years. We have never had a five-year contract and I believe it is completely unethical of our union to basically keep their teachers from exercising their right-to-work as voted on by our elected representatives in Michigan. They used scare tactics to convince people that younger teachers would no longer get their step pay increases if they didn’t vote to accept the contract. The union knew exactly what it was doing with the timing of the contract ratification.

How Much Could Opting Out Save You?

Find out how much you could have at the end of your career if you opted out this summer and invested your dues: