Leader Admits in Email: Teachers Union "Stands Up For Adults"

Kyle Olson

7/14/2011 12:01:00 AM - Kyle Olson

One Michigan teacher has discovered that being a Michigan Education Association member is like staying at the Hotel California: You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.

Andrew Buikema, a music teacher with Grant Public Schools for the past nine years, is tired of being forced to belong to a union that he says doesn’t “stand up for kids” and “always seem(s) to put adults first.”

Buikema expressed his displeasure in a recent email to MEA Secretary-Treasurer Peggy McLellan.

In her response, McLellan wrote, “You’re right that MEA stands up for adults; that’s because it’s the adults who are under attack, not the kids.”

McLellan goes on to argue “that MEA does stand up for our members, but it’s because our members’ working conditions are the kids’ learning conditions.”

A copy of the email exchange can be found on PublicSchoolSpending.com.

The email exchange began when Buikema asked union leaders how to resign from the MEA. He was told by both McLellan and another MEA representative that quitting the union was only possible for religious objectors.

Why is Buikema eager to dissolve ties with the MEA?

He believes the union takes a needlessly adversarial approach when asked to make concessions to help districts balance their budgets.

Specifically, Buikema believes the union should stop pressuring districts into purchasing pricey, union-owned MESSA health insurance. That would allow districts to purchase less expensive coverage, and use the savings to prevent teacher layoffs.

“The MEA could have an opportunity to make themselves look really good in the state and in all the communities if they would actually look at school finances, along with many other issues, without the blinders on,” Buikema wrote.

“The label that is put on us teachers makes us look greedy, self centered and arrogant. All because of the perception that is being put out there from the MEA and local unions,” wrote Buikema.

“I just want to teach without having the union label on me,” he concluded.

Buikema represents a growing number of teachers who feel disaffected by the MEA’s agenda that protects the sacred cows of seniority and MESSA at the expense of students and less-senior teachers.

But Buikema isn’t alone. Other teachers around the country are taking a similar stand.

Buikema recently shared his views during an appearance on the Fox News Channel.