News Story

Teacher Left Michigan Education Association and Has No Regrets

She says MEA president pension spiking scheme solidified her decision

Rosemary Stawasz wasn't sure what Michigan's right-to-work law, enacted at the end of 2012, would mean for her.

Stawasz, a special education teacher with the Van Buren Intermediate School District, worried about what would happen if she exercised her new right to not be forced to financially support the local teachers union.

Under the previous law, paying union dues or fees was a condition of employment. Now, she had a choice. Educators can find out more about that choice at

“I have had no problems at all," she said of the decision she made to leave the union. "The president of my local has been professional whenever I’ve had to talk to him about something. It’s been fine. No one has called me 'freeloader' to my face.”

Growing up in Flint, the heartland of the United Auto Workers, and having worked in an Arizona school district that was experiencing labor unrest, Stawasz never imagined herself at odds with a union.

But when she moved back to Michigan seven years ago, she was surprised by her union local’s poor communication with workers, and that it failed to go to bat for her when issues arose involving the ISD's health insurance plan.

“We had a ‘composite rate’ system. Single workers paid only $200 less than those with family coverage. We were picking up the slack for everyone else,” said Stawasz.

Because of subsequent changes in the ISD's health care plan, she says it is now more equitable, but the experience left a bad impression on her.

“I didn’t feel like I had much of a voice when it came to those kinds of things,” she said.

Matters didn’t improve when she began inquiring about her option to leave under the state’s right-to-work law, which went into effect in 2013. Before working in Michigan, she worked in two other right-to-work states, North Carolina and Arizona, and knew when she heard inaccurate information.

“I didn’t care for the lack of information and what seemed like some passive-aggressive behavior to stop us from leaving,” said Stawasz.

She now feels more strongly about her decision to leave, due to hearing about MEA President Steve Cook’s "pension spiking" arrangement with a local school district that will allow him to collect inflated benefits. Unlike Cook, who took advantage of a so-called "teacher on loan" program when he stopped being an educator and went to work full time for the union, Stawasz lost any accrued pension benefit credits when she left a Michigan school job to teach in other states.

Stawasz says she would be open to joining the union again if communication improved and she saw better value for her dues, which were just under $1,000 a year.

She is pursuing a doctorate and is putting that money toward tuition.

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.