News Story

MEA, Recalls and the ‘Grassroots’: Who is the Tail and Who is the Dog?

Union boss claims limited involvement in recalls, but union magazine tells another story

The new leader of the Michigan Education Association says it’s not his union that is leading the recall efforts of Republican politicians. But MEA President Steve Cook’s words don’t jibe with his organization's own magazine, the MEA Voice, which put MEA members working on recall petitions on its recent cover and has a letter from the MEA leaders urging help in recalling GOP legislators.

In its “Letter to members from the executive office,” Cook is listed among three other top MEA officials as authors of the letter.

The letter reads: “Collectively, we must forge ahead and have hope that what is right and just will prevail. MEA is in the second phase of a three-part crisis plan. With your help, we will hold elected officials who voted for anti-worker legislation accountable through recalls and referendum.”

The August issue of the MEA Voice has a photo on the cover of four MEA members standing in the doorway of a neighborhood home, and one of the members is carrying a clipboard with the word “Recall” on the back of it.

The MEA magazine’s comments conflict with Cook’s more recent comments to media and on the union’s own website.

On the MEA’s website,, Cook wrote said on Sept. 9, “It’s actions by Republicans that are driving the recalls; it’s not the MEA.”

The Grand Rapids Press wrote:

“Cook said there is a perception that the MEA is running all the recalls, but he swears each was the result of grassroots groundswells. The union has starting spending and offering manpower, especially in the campaign to oust Scott … But if I go out there and tell our members not to do these things, you're going to be able to measure my time in office with a stopwatch.”

Cook didn’t respond to an email seeking comment.

Michael Van Beek, education policy director of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, said the MEA’s standard procedure is a “very centralized command.” He pointed out to how the MEA leadership called for a vote to authorize a teachers’ strike earlier this year.

“It wasn’t local districts and grass roots ground swell making that decision. It was the MEA,” Van Beek said. “This is how the MEA operates. The leadership of the MEA makes the decisions and the local affiliates follow suit. It’s part of the reason there are so many teachers frustrated with the MEA because they operate this way.”

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.