Union bashes Mackinac Center and oil companies; teacher pension funds bolstered by Exxon, Chevron
Listen to the Michigan Education Association and you would think that anyone who dares talk to teachers about their rights is trying to destroy education in America.
To some extent, the rhetoric is expected. Changes to the status quo in education mean that unions lose their stranglehold on the tax dollars they’ve become accustomed to getting with little accountability.
The MEA does not like that the Mackinac Center for Public Policy is informing teachers of their rights under Michigan's right-to-work law. Teachers who belong to the MEA but do not want to support the union for any variety of reasons — religious, political, social, financial or other — are only allowed to leave during the month of August, and only when their current contract expires.
The union is particularly upset about a new website, www.AugustOptOut.com, the Mackinac Center set up to serve as a resource for teachers who want to leave. It provides information that is easily accessible and informative. And it profiles some of the MEA members who are fed up with the union and want out.
Thousands of teachers will be eligible to leave next month but many had no idea the window for them to get out was so restrictive because the MEA did not tell them. In fact, the union's former spokesman, who now is director of member benefits, testified in front of a state Senate committee hearing in December that the union did not want to let its members know about their rights.
"Why would any membership organization seek to tell someone how to get out?" Doug Pratt said to the Senate Compliance and Accountability Committee.
So here we are, seven months since and the MEA is directing resources at attacking the Mackinac Center and the Association of American Educators, which provides some of the same benefits the MEA provides to teachers but at a lower cost and without having to pay union dues or fees.
The MEA said last month that 7,000 members still had not paid dues and blamed technical issues for that as well as saying that some members likely had not been told about the requirement by local union officials. That's on top of 1,500 members the union said opted out last August. The union now is scrambling to try to convince teachers that the thousands of dollars they've paid in dues over the years was worth it and should be continued.
The union also is going out of its way to tell teachers that people who value freedom and liberty and want to share that with others are at best, dishonest, and at worst, just plain evil. Those messages are clearly displayed on a website the union recently created.
The Mackinac Center "lies" about teachers and education, the site says. It is "anti-worker" and it reportedly gets money from Exxon.
It is ironic the MEA grouses about Exxon. After all, the market value of Exxon Mobil Corp. stock alone accounts for $152 million of the Michigan Public School Employees Retirement System assets, according to the 2013 MPSERS’ Comprehensive Annual Financial Report. Exxon is the 6th largest stock holding in MPSERS' portfolio, which funds teacher pensions. Chevron Corp. is the 10th largest stock holding. Combined, the two oil companies account for $286 million in market value for MEA pensions.
One expects union executives to be concerned about the loss of members and to defend its turf.
But continually, and falsely, labeling people who disagree with the union as anti-education or anti-teacher diverts attention from real and serious issues in some schools. The Mackinac Center has repeatedly offered suggestions for reform. The MEA just demands more money.