News Story

Why a Michigan paraprofessional left his union

Since 2012, membership ranks of support staff in the Michigan Education Association have shrank 56%

Mike Williams is a paraprofessional for a vocational program at Northwest Education Services Career Tech in Traverse City. He has left his union twice since 2007, due to what he says is a lack of support from the Michigan Education Association for its non-teacher union members.

Williams entered his career in education in 2007, a time when he was required to pay union dues to keep his job. After ten years on the job, his hourly wage had only increased by 70 cents. He says he opted out of the union as soon as right-to-work took effect in 2013, because he didn’t feel supported by the union.

He rejoined the union after colleagues requested that he show solidarity during contract negotiations. Williams not only gave the union another chance, he took on union duties. He became vice president of the local support personnel chapter of the MEA.

Williams says the employees successfully negotiated their own contract, without help from the state MEA. Williams says he and some of his peers feel the MEA does not prioritize them because they are support personnel and lower on the wrung of the employee ladder. He says the state organization collects their dues and provides little to no benefit.

As a paraprofessional, Williams does not make as much as a teacher. His dues were $400 to $500 per year and were not worth it. Williams resigned as vice president and once again left the union in fall 2022.

The MEA had 33,234 education support personnel members in 2012. That number has significantly dropped to 14,764 members in 2022, a 55.6% decline.

The headcount for paraprofessionals and aides in public schools has remained steady. There were 31,340 professionals in 2012, with a slight increase to 32,019 in 2022.

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.