Love your union

Our Point of View
by MEA-MFT President Eric Feaver


Nov-Dec 2013

August and September are the two of the more frustrating months of the year.

Yeah, almost as frustrating as a four-month tea party dominated legislature every other year.

During these two long months, a relatively small number of MEA-MFT members resign from membership, surrendering voice and vote in union matters, going their own way, sometimes blasting away at us as they walk out the door.
 

With each and every resignation, however small in number, I want to reach through the internet or US mail and scream: “Stay a member! Love your union!”
 

Are we perfect? No.
 

Do we meet every individual member need and expectation? No.
 

Do our best efforts always produce good results? No.
 

But over the last year or two have we significantly enhanced state employee compensation? Yes, we have.
 

Have we successfully amortized and saved retirement pensions for all active and retired members in the Public Employees’ and Teachers’ Retirement Systems? Definitely.
 

Have we fought back and defeated every scurrilous attempt to privatize our public schools? For sure.
 

Did we help secure the largest increase in state funding of our k-12 public schools in history? Without us . . . it would not have happened.
 

Have we helped create a viable, credible, powerful coalition of public school classifieds, teachers, administrators, and trustees to protect and enhance quality public education for all God's children? Absolutely.
 

Have we worked with the Office of Public Instruction and Board of Public Education to revamp our school accreditation standards and ramp up the need and model for locally negotiated teacher and administrator evaluation systems? You betcha.
 

And were we not there at the beginning of the Montana Digital Academy and have helped nurture its positive, progressive steps forward? No question whatsoever.
 

Are we not there for National Board Certification, Teacher of the Year, Karen Cox grants, and Jim McGarvey scholarships? They don't exist without us.
 

Do we not continue to sponsor the largest, most dynamic teacher-designed and teacher- delivered, cross-grade, cross-curriculum professional development conference in Montana? Forever!
 

And with one unhappy exception, have we not organized higher ed faculty across the Montana University System and community colleges and breathed new life into the Coalition of Union Faculty to represent and advocate for organized faculty at the board of regents? Believe it.
 

Have we helped sustain public employees’ right to organize and bargain collectively? You damned right.
 

And have we helped grow the Montana State AFL-CIO. Yes, sir, we have.
 

So, what is there NOT to love about our union, your union?
 

Dues? 
 

Staff?
 

Leadership?
 

Political action?
 

OK, I hear that plenty. But without these union things, would there be anything left to love collectively, good for all of us, like competitive salaries, pensions, health care, gender and minority equity, educational innovation, member rights and benefits?
 

Without our union, how do any of us individually secure these things and protect and advance outstanding government and public school programs and services for the local and state communities in which we live and serve?
 

Really, how?
 

So, love your union . . . be a member . . . stay a member.
 

Be empowered to drive this great union forward.
 

Your dues, your voice, your vote matter.
 

Love your union.