The plain black-and-white postcards started landing in the mailboxes of educators earlier this summer. It asked them to fill out a “satisfaction survey” of their union.
A member might glance at it and think it was from Education Minnesota itself, but it was from the Freedom Foundation of Washington state, one of the country’s biggest anti-union organizations.
Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned 40 years of precedent in the Janus case in 2018, and effectively made the nation right-to-work, groups like the Freedom Foundation have used tricks and lies in direct-mail campaigns to try to break the union movement in America, especially powerful unions of educators.
In the offices of organizations that cash the checks from the DeVos, Koch and Walton families, the political operatives imagine a future without labor unions to defend public education. They wish for the financial benefits of no longer paying taxes to support public schools and colleges, and greater profits due to a withered public sector.
For some of the anti-union groups, it’s also about stopping progress in asserting the human rights of LGBTQ+ young people in schools, and of erasing our nation’s history of racism from the public debate—one banned book and one academic gag order at a time. They know unions of educators are the first, and best, lines of defense for all of students’ freedom to learn in safe and welcoming schools, and to have access to lessons that inform them about America’s triumphs and the times when it fell far short of its ideals.
But as educators and unionists, we’re up for the challenge.
As members of Education Minnesota, you will soon receive real postcards from your union thanking you for standing strong. You’ll receive information about how, by many measures, the quality of life is worse in states with weaker unions. For educators, strong unions mean higher wages and better health insurance. For example, when anti-union lawmakers took over in Wisconsin 12 years ago, they passed Act 10 and teacher compensation plummeted $10,483 within four years.
However, at Education Minnesota we know members need their union to do much more than just exist. Educators want tangible progress on their compensation, especially pensions and health insurance; better working conditions, including better staffing ratios, prep time and professional development; and more mental health supports for students and staff. You’ll be hearing more about our plans for those issues, too.
As for that “survey” from the Freedom Foundation, most Minnesota educators have already seen through it. They’ve also thought about a future without our union—and rejected it.
A member from St. Paul sent me her edits and replies to that survey. Frankly, I couldn’t have done better myself. The survey questions are in bold. The educators’ edits in red.
- Why are you a union member? (Mark all that apply)
- I am unaware of other options. The alternative is being at management’s mercy.
- I don’t want to lose my liability insurance. dignity and basic rights.
- I’m afraid know if I leave, I will be retaliated against mistreated by management.
- Other feedback: They can’t scare me, I’m sticking with the union.
And at the bottom of the form, the educator wrote: “… Did they think this survey would fool me?”
The answer is yes. But we’re educators and we know we’re stronger as a united voice.