Member Voice: Why we should support MEA

By Sandy Callis, Holt Public Schools

All four of my grandparents came to Flint on trains and ships to pursue a living wage and a brighter future for their families.

Both of my grandfathers participated in the sit-down strikes that started the labor movement worldwide. They sat in dirty, locked factories, waiting for food to be dropped through ceiling vents. My maternal grandmother started working on the line at AC Spark Plug during World War II, earning less than the men who sat next to her as she assembled Chevrolet panels. The United Autoworkers Union is responsible for changing that situation.

When I was 8 years old, I proudly watched my father make his first and only picket sign, which he carried in four strikes. It still sits in my parents’ basement and reads, “A good education costs more. A bad education costs most.” I also remember my mother making the bean soup last for us as long as she could. Recently, I asked them about those strikes, and my mom said, “We didn’t know if he would be fired.”

Since I began teaching in 1984, I have never had to strike to better my working conditions or create a better classroom environment for my students. Holt Public Schools works hard to support its teachers and students. The administration and union have found ways to transcend the traditional acrimony found in labor disputes. I’m proud of us, but I’m always aware that the two sides are both necessary to create not just good outcomes, but the best outcomes.

Why would I support MEA? That’s easy. First of all, I owe it to my family and the sacrifices they made for me. Second, I owe it to my state for the tremendous blessings I’ve been granted as a teacher in a public school. Third, I owe it to my students and their families, so that learning isn’t distracted by all of the mayhem that happens in untenable circumstances.

Why should we all support the MEA? We owe it to our history. We owe it to our integrity. We owe it to the children who are so fortunate to live within the borders of the Great Lakes. We’re not just teachers — we’re Michigan teachers.

(Holt Public Schools teacher Sandy Callis has worked as a public educator for 29 years, both as a teacher and as an administrator.)