Sept. 1, 2023, will mark 25 years since Education Minnesota was formed.
The Representative Convention this April serves as the kickoff to the celebration of our union’s 25 years of unity.
Did you know we were the first merged state affiliate?
The merger brought together the Minnesota Education Association (MEA) and Minnesota Federation of Teachers (MFT) in what was the first merged union in the country to be recognized by both the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. There had been previous mergers before, but ours was a recognized, accepted merger by both national unions.
The Public Employees Labor Relations Act (PELRA) started what would be catalyst for the fighting between the MEA and MFT to be the exclusive representative for an individual school district’s employees.
Before the merger, the two organizations—the MEA and the MFT—were both doing the same things, but just a little differently. But because there were two groups, that inherently created a world of competition, fighting among colleagues, smear campaigns in publications and a division that really served no purpose.
“In districts where there were both representatives of the EA and the FT, elections took place to determine who had the majority of support,” said Larry Wicks, the former executive director of the MEA and Education Minnesota. “Whoever won the election, they became certified as the exclusive representation. That began the codified fighting of the EA and the FT.”
The fighting also moved to the state level. Politicians and decision makers in education were able to use the two organizations as bargaining chips and try to make them take different positions.
“We were doing things or making decisions based on what we thought the other organization would or wouldn’t do,” said Judy Schaubach, former MEA and Education Minnesota president. “Whether it was in the political arena or at the local level, in the back of our minds, we were always thinking, if we take this position are we going to lose members to the other organization because they will take a different position?”
The push for merger really started at the local level. Rank-and-file members were tired of the fighting and didn’t see a real reason for there to be two separate unions.
The first merger came in the Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan district. In total, thirteen local unions merged before the state organization. This indeed was a member-led process.
Education Minnesota will kick off the 25th anniversary with a celebration at April’s Representative Convention. Delegates will be able to share their own merger memories or thoughts on how we are more powerful as a united union. There will also be reflections shared from the leaders who were involved in this historic event.
As the September anniversary approaches, look for ways to celebrate this momentous occasion in future issues of the Minnesota Educator and on Education Minnesota’s social media channels.