Many educators see the UEA as an insurance policy. Educators pay in; the Association pays out. A quarter goes into a soda pop machine, and the correct soda comes out. However, in the event that the wrong soda falls out of that machine, one might become upset and kick the machine, cancel a membership, or berate the entire system because of a fundamental misunderstanding. As one current UEA member said, “I’ve always believed that teachers follow our union leadership from a distance–not the other way around. I hear so much talk of teachers waiting on our union leaders, but I did not get it until now: I am the union.”
Perhaps the most important thing we learned from our member organizing training is that the UEA is an association of all of us. As we talked with individuals throughout the district, we discussed many important issues. Sarah Cox, a Speech and Language Pathologist (pictured in a Zoom call with Member Organizers), brought up the importance of inclusive language among other things, noting that using only the word “teacher” can leave many professionals feeling undervalued and uninvited. We only learned of this issue and many others after we extended an invitation to speak up and participate in the Association.
We believe that as we commit to extend to educators, frequent invitations to speak up and participate, we’ll be more equipped to meaningfully address issues. We believe this because we know that all educators have a story to share and talents to extend. After all, we together are the union.