August 1, 2018 at 3:22 pm

A Letter to Colleagues: Why I am not a Member of the Union

Dear Fellow Educator,

Have you heard? The Supreme Court made a big First Amendment decision this summer that affects all public employees, including teachers. The Court said that we can no longer be forced to financially support a union without first giving “affirmative consent.” This means that we do not have to join or support Education Minnesota and its affiliates (NEA/AFT) to keep our jobs.

There are a lot of opinions on what the ruling means for Minnesota teachers like us. I’m writing to you today to let you know what one fellow teacher thinks about the ruling and to encourage you to do your own research before deciding whether you want to be a member of the union.

First, let me introduce myself.

I have been a science teacher at Champlin Park High School for over 20 years. I enjoy teaching 9th-12th graders at all levels and have worked to develop curriculum to help students better prepare for the course work—and hopefully make science enjoyable!

Through the years, I have been a swim and softball coach, and I advise student clubs. I am an involved educator who enjoys being part of my students’ lives. I like to think I am the type of teacher the union says it represents and works so hard for.

Yet, I do not plan to become a member of Education Minnesota. Why? I am not a freeloader or dishonest; if I thought membership had value, I would happily pay for it. But I do not think the union works for my best interestsor, more importantly, for my students’.

Like all teachers, I have been forced to accept union representation and pay fees to the union. Minnesota teachers pay an average of $1,000 in dues; most of the money goes to Education Minnesota. The smallest portion goes to our local, which ironically may do the most good.

My money has been used to fund political candidates and support policies I often disagreed with, including policies affecting my teacher contract and classroom.

But this is not just about money. I am greatly troubled that I was forced to fund a union agenda that often hurts my students. The union has helped enact policies at the state and federal level that undermine education. Time and again I saw the union supporting one-size-fits-all approaches that don’t work for students from diverse backgrounds.

And then there is Education Minnesota’s relentless and increasing advocacy on divisive political issues that are crowding out what should be our focus: educating students.

After a few years of being a member, I could not in good conscience support the union. I resigned and became a “fair share” payer, but the union still took 85% of dues from my paycheck. I did not find my “share” fair, at all.

Ask yourself, how does Education Minnesota’s focus on politics help teachers create an effective learning environment, or deal with things like student discipline issues that take away from teaching time? We’ve had a teachers’ union for almost fifty years; why are we still fighting for better pay? Why do things seem to be getting worse rather than better?

Thanks to the recent Supreme Court decision, teachers are no longer required to support the union unless they give their affirmative consent. What does that mean for you?

If you are a new teacher, you do not have to join the union. If you were a “fair share” payer, fees are no longer being deducted from your paycheck. If you are a member of the union, you have a decision to make: do you want to “opt-out” or do you want to remain in the union? Education Minnesota’s union card says you only have the right to resign during a very narrow 7-day window from September 24-30.

 It is your choice. The union under the law will still represent you in contract negotiations, and you have the same rights and benefits that you did before Janus. You won’t be paid less—and there are several great liability insurance options to protect you.

 Regardless of your decision, we can’t be treated differently and are always protected by Minnesota State Law. Check out—a website made just for Minnesota teachers to answer your concerns and questions.

As I said above, I am choosing not to join Education Minnesota because I cannot in good conscience support a union I disagree with more often than not.

I do not know if my decision on union membership is right for you or not. Every teachers’ case is unique—which is why I was happy that the Supreme Court recognized that we have the right to decide for ourselves.

For too long, the teachers’ union has not been about improving education or supporting good teachers. It has been about political power and protecting the status quo. This is an opportunity for all of us—whether you choose to pay union dues or not—to change that and help improve our schools and uplift our students.

Again, if you would like more information about our union, and your right to opt-out of paying union dues, check out



Linda Hoekman

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