Minnesota educators have recommitted themselves to the union in big ways in the year-and-a-half since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the Janus vs. AFSCME case.
The court decision ruled that public-sector unions could no longer collect fair-share fees, which had helped cover the union’s costs of providing collective bargaining and grievance administration support to non-members.
Education Minnesota has had its membership hold steady since the decision, with many non-members changing to full members after one-on-one conversations and a renewed effort to make sure members understand the value of their union.
“It brought us together in a strong way, and it unified our union from every corner of the state,” said President Denise Specht, in a Guardian article in February 2019 about the post-Janus response. “We were complacent for a while. People signed up when they were new to a school district or a building. For many educators, that was the first and last time they talked to their union—and now times are absolutely different.”
Why I #chooseunion
“I’m so excited to be a part of doing good things for the sake of our teachers, so we can do good things for our students. That’s the whole point, is to be good people for these young people to be able to grow up and be good people. And I think the union helps us as teachers do that.”
Sheena Tisland, Education Minnesota Red Wing
“I just had a professional development the other day where they took a piece of paper and folded it in half and ripped it. And it was pretty easy to rip, with two it’s easy to rip a piece of paper. Fold it four times, a little bit tougher but still pretty easy. Then you go to eight times. It gets tough. Sixteen, even harder. Thirty-two, almost impossible. And that’s what it’s like to be part of a union and speak in numbers. And when we have a strong collective, we’re able to be that tough so we can’t get tears in us. We can keep moving forward and keep pushing the profession further, keep pushing kids further, keep pushing policy further.”
Stefanie Gunderson, Education Minnesota – Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted
“The union protects our rights as teachers. For as much as everyone wants to say we’re really respected, there’s a lot of ways that we get nickeled-and-dimed. And I think it’s really important to support our union, because they’re the ones fighting for fair wages. They’re the ones to protect our time off. They’re the ones getting our salaries not essentially where they should be, but as high as they can get them. In other states that don’t have the ability to unionize in that way, there’s data that shows that they’re not getting paid as they should, or anywhere close to it.”
Klair Hans, Westonka Education Minnesota
“The power of the union for me, when I was speaking at the Capitol, we got to not only use our voice as ESPs, but as people of color. And actually at the same time, we got to give voice to the children. Even though the union is for the adults, for the teachers and educators, we’re here for the kids.”
Sieara Washington, Education Minnesota Osseo ESPs
“Being a union member allows me to support my students, because it gives us the tools to come together as a whole group and do things like talk to the Legislature to make sure our kids get the proper supports that they need at school. And it also allows us to come together and talk to each other and make sure we’re doing the right things within our classrooms, schools, districts and areas to make sure each kid gets what they need—and that’s a good education.”
Cody Shaffer, Pelican Rapids Education Association