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My name is Jan York, and I’ve been an REA/MEA member since the 97-98 school year. I go to work each day to teach my students knowing that I can teach what I have been endorsed to teach and knowing that my union will protect me if need be. Mostly, teachers are creatures who love children and want to make some difference in their lives. What better way to pass on knowledge to the coming generations and get them excited about learning something new than being a teacher. I’ll bet most teachers had a special teacher in their lives that inspired them in some way. We should want to be learning something new every day of our lives, and teachers want to pass that passion onto their students each and every year.
I know that if I didn’t have a union to back me on legal issues, my job would be much harder and more stressful than it is. I’m not complaining about how hard I work at my job (many people do), but anyone who works in a school knows that teaching and working with children of all ages is something that we get better at, and it evolves over time. We learn to better our craft from the experiences we have with our students year after year. Some people, who don’t work in a school, but have a very large opinion of a teacher’s career, sound off to say offensive things about teachers. As much as this bothers me, I still know that I’m doing what I love, and people cannot come in and demand that I teach a certain way, or that my administrator cannot make demands of me to perform duties outside the requirements of my contract without my permission. Teachers do many additional things outside the requirements of their contract all of the time. The difference here is that they have a choice. This is because we are part of a union that protects us.
I have always lived in Michigan, a huge union, blue-collar state. When I was in my early twenties I saw two movies at the theater that imprinted the importance of unions in my mind. The movies were, “F.I.S.T.,” which stands for Federation of Inter-State Truckers and “White Line Fever,” which depicts striking by truckers. Although these both are fictional movies, they left an impression on the importance of unions before thoughts ever entered my mind about becoming a teacher. Had I not seen these movies, I wouldn’t really know how fortunate I was to have the protection of a union when I entered the teaching profession.
Although I have not had to call on my union for a personal situation in my job, my union has helped me through a long contract negotiation and helped me get the best contract I could get in these economically challenging times for public schools. I also have the comfort of knowing that I have representation from my union if I am challenged in my job when I feel that a parent or administrator is taking advantage.
My final point is the most important point. I love my union, REA/MEA, because they are a loud voice in the Legislature. Big business is desperately trying to grab the market on public education. Our great unions are standing in their way. In order for them to destroy public education, they first have to make the unions fall. OUR UNIONS ARE OUR POWER. They help our voices and our concerns be heard. If we don’t have them, big business will achieve their goals, getting richer off our kids. The sad part about this is they don’t care two cents about our kids. They only see dollar signs.
I hope teachers throughout this great country stand up to this union bashing and support their union. Without standing together, we will fall; and then who will watch out for the welfare of our students? I hope parents get heavily involved in this very important issue. The America we know counts on it. Big business and the Legislature have destroyed too much in the lives of the people of this country. Unions are our voice and they are worth every dollar I pay in dues. I support my union.