This post first appeared on the Commonwealth Foundation’s PolicyBlog. Commonwealth Foundation used to run Free to Teach, which is now a project of Americans For Fair Treatment.

Michigan teacher Jim Perialas has an unusual story. In 2012 his school, Roscommon Area School District, became the first in decades to decertify (or leave) the state-wide Michigan Education Association (MEA) and the National Education Association (NEA) to form a local-only, independent union.

Jim readily admits he’s not anti-union, “unions do good and bad things . . . but I still think they should play a role in the workplace.” So, why did teachers at Roscommon want to leave the MEA? They were simply frustrated by the undemocratic, expensive, and secretive state union. “We talk about the lack of a voice . . . there is a so-called democratic process, but really it’s not,” explains Jim.

This same frustration with distant and unaccountable union leaders is felt in Pennsylvania by teachers like Keith Williams from Adams County and John Cress from Ellwood City.

Going local wasn’t easy. Jim warns that any district considering the local option needs to be united and prepared to withstand immense pressure from the state union, but the rewards can be worth it.

Today, members of the independent Roscommon Teachers Association have seen their dues decrease from $980 to $600 a year and members still have access to grievance support and other services. Most importantly, members have local control and can clearly see how their money is being spent.

Hear about the challenges Jim and his fellow teachers faced during the decertification process in our latest podcast.

Michigan Teacher Jim Perialas

by American's For Fair Treatment

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