By Rick Morgan, Mat-Su CEA
Hello, my name is Rick Morgan. I am a day custodian in the Mat-Su Valley, nearing 10 years on the job. I am a member of the Classified Employees Association, a member of the contract bargaining team, and the NEA-Alaska State PACE (Political Action Committee for Education) team. I also happen to be a conservative card carrying member of the NEA Republican Caucus. I’ve been blessed to represent my local at two state Delegate Assemblies where I was a member of the LRC (Legislative Review Committee) and this year, attended my first NEA Representative Assembly in Minneapolis, at which I actually dared to wear my “Make America Great Again” hat. Needless to say, this did not bode well with many of my NEA colleagues.
Now that I have established my conservative credentials, it’s time to talk business. When I was in Washington, D.C. this summer, I had the opportunity to sit down with Senator Dan Sullivan and when the discussion came to Janus (Janus vs AFSCME) he expressed how happy I must be that I can leave my union being that I am a conservative and the NEA as a whole, well…basically, is not. Though I do agree with the decision (no one should be forced to pay to support something they don’t believe in), I will never leave my union. This surprised Senator Sullivan, being rather conservative himself, and he offered me a chance to speak about my union. Not the national NEA, but our local and state unions, small groups of people fighting the good fight for us on a daily basis. Everything we have in our contract that benefits you as the employee was negotiated by your union. The district didn’t volunteer accrued leave. HR did not have an epiphany and give you paid holidays. The health benefits that are the driving force for many new employees? The negotiating team worked for that.
Thanks to Janus, you can leave the union now and save some money on dues, but here’s the catch: when you do, your voice in those contract negotiations is lost. The direction our union takes – you’re just a passenger. And for many of you, that really isn’t much different. So, how does leaving really hurt you? The fewer members we have, the closer we get to the union not being able to actually function. And the less of a voice and power we have at the bargaining table and with the school board. Which of course many people are cheering for, especially the school district! Being on the negotiating team, I have seen the contract offers the district presents. What they really want is a wage freeze, no floating holidays, and two-thirds reduction in accrued leave. The wording our school district placed in the contract gives them total discretion on the work week. Split shifts, split days off, and no overtime. Think health insurance premiums are high? Try district self insurance where it costs more for less coverage, as many other districts in our state have showed us.
In 1857, a group of courageous educators formed our union to protect each other and drag educators above the poverty line. The NEA has come a long way since then to become the largest labor union in the country. This summer, I was able to see our national union at work. And from a conservative point of view, it was frightening. But heartening as well. You may think we (conservatives) are a minority but I am here to tell you that is not the case. I saw a majority of union members standing up against what I consider to be far-left wing extremist views. This is not the time for conservatives to leave the union, but to stay, become involved, get elected and serve, help us take our union back to its roots of taking care of our members.
As far as the national NEA, I am sure many conservatives will agree with me that it is a bit “out of touch”, so to speak. But let me encourage those who plan to leave the union for the reasons of the NEA supporting liberal politicians and fringe causes, that your voice is needed more than ever. The absence of your voice allows for the voices of our most radical left colleagues to have much more say in the direction of the organization.
In closing, our union is a wall; keeping harmful floods of bad ideas at bay. Written up by your supervisor for finding a pot stash on campus because it “isn’t in your job description”? (Yep, that really happened) That grievance costs money. Negotiating your contract? That costs money. Teaching your building reps how to represent you? Union dues. As I told Senator Sullivan, our school district isn’t interested in what’s fair. They’re interested in pet projects, how their offices are decorated and who is catering their next all day meeting. I, a conservative, am remaining in my union because we protect the people who do the real work from the whims of district administration more concerned about their six-figure salaries and how to justify their jobs. I am one of those blocks in that wall, and I need all of you to stand with me.