MEA membership means better contracts together

With the passage of Michigan’s Public Employment Relations Act in 1965, teachers finally went from begging to bargaining. Thanks to PERA, all public school employees have the right to negotiate for fair wages, quality health care benefits and decent working conditions.

Collective bargaining is MEA’s core function — more than 150,000 members working together, harnessing their collective power to bargain collectively for pay, benefits and workplace standards. MEA staff helps local members bargain more than 3,600 contracts with employers ranging from traditional K-12 schools and charter schools to community colleges and universities.

MEA membership means better contracts together.

“You get a contract,” says Saginaw Valley State University English professor Gary Thompson. “That doesn’t happen from thin air, but from dedicated work by your colleagues, with excellent legal and pragmatic advice from your MEA UniServ director, backed by a skilled organization.”

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, full-time employees who are union members earn about 28 percent more than their non-union counterparts. That means more money to put food on the table, gas in the tank and savings in the bank.

That’s not to say that unionized school employees don’t face challenges, but it helps to have the state’s leading advocate for public education on their side. In a perfect world, contract negotiations would take place as scheduled and would be undertaken in a fair and collegial manner. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case, and that’s why MEA employs experts in crisis bargaining. Whether it’s a crisis at the bargaining table, a proposal to outsource or downgrade jobs, or an emergency at worksites, MEA is at members’ sides, ready to help.

MEA staff helps with all aspects of crisis negotiations, from strategic planning and legal assistance to communications and bargaining consultation. MEA may also be able to provide financial assistance to help with a local crisis.

Dee Brock, past president of the Shepherd Education Association in Mid-Michigan, says MEA’s help was invaluable in helping to deal with a local crisis.

“It took us a while to realize that our bargaining was in a crisis mode,” Brock says. “MEA was with us every step of the way, giving us the expertise that helped us reach a settlement. We’re a small local, and we couldn’t have done it without MEA’s help.”