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On Belonging to NSEA

How will I afford it?
Many occupation groups pay dues that are twice ours. They do it because they realize dues are an investment in their future welfare. For free legal protection, negotiations service, and discount economic service, it’s a pretty small investment. Don’t forget you can pay by payroll deduction to ease the load. In fact, many members who take advantage of the association’s special service programs are making up all or most of the cost of their dues in money savings, not to mention higher salaries and better fringe benefits. They can’t afford not to join.

All of that is well and good, but I just don’t believe in joining anything. Why should I join now?
If that were how everyone felt, we’d still be paying taxes on tea from England. Until educators organized and won tenure, how many were dismissed for unfair reasons? Until educators organized and negotiated locally, where were salaries and benefits going? Until educators organized and entered the political arena, how many “letter writing campaigns” ended up in legislative wastebaskets? While some people say they don’t like to join organizations, not too many people want to turn back increases, which association negotiations and lobbying have won. In short, some people would prefer to have it both ways — getting the benefits without the membership fee.Maybe it’s time you gave some thought to supporting the organization that supports you in almost everything that affects your career or your teaching.

But I won’t really have a voice in what the association does. Right?
Wrong. You have a voice and a vote every time your local takes action and you elect representatives to the NSEA Delegate Assembly, as well as to the NEA Representative Assembly. Each state is represented on the Board of Directors of the NEA, and your wishes are made known. The NSEA and the NEA pride themselves on being democratic and ensuring fair representation for all its members.

NSEA/NEA is too radical (anti-management).
Sometimes to be heard you have to raise your voice. For too long educators have been waiting for someone else to do the job. It’s just not going to happen. Education will never achieve the recognition and support it deserves until school employees are willing to stand up and be counted. If you disagree with the local, or NSEA, or NEA positions, change them! By working
within the organization, you can cause change. Your membership entitles you to be heard. Don’t you agree it is better to be involved in the change process than have the change done to you?

Why are dues so expensive?
Dues are not expensive. When the cost of protecting and improving one’s livelihood is compared with other costs we incur, the association dues are a tremendous bargain. In fact, in light of what our members need and want, the dues may be too low. “You get what you pay for,” and the NSEA/NEA members are getting an excellent deal. Specifically, the program provides
services to members—such as legal assistance, liability insurance, staff assistance, leadership training, research, lobbying, communications and public relations, grievance assistance, and programs from NEA Member Benefits, ACCESS membership discount card to great deals on medical and life insurance policies, just to name a few. Membership has privileges.

What do I get for my dues?
This question should not be answered as if the member is purchasing a consumable commodity. Membership in a union of professional employees; it’s not a purchase. Dues are the member’s share of the costs of implementing the association’s programs which protect and advance the employee’s interests.

“What do I get for my dues?” can be answered tactfully by referring the member to the basic core of the association's programs:

  • Protecting employment rights.
  • Supporting programs to improve member economic welfare.
  • Promoting and safeguarding education and working conditions.
  • Keeping the members informed.
  • Enhancing professional development.
  • Seeking public support of schools by advancing the cause of public education.

“What do I get for my dues?” must be balanced against similar questions if they were to be raised in other parallel situations. For example: I don’t see what the state association or NEA does that the local association can’t do… Wouldn’t it be better to spend my money for a local association?
If the local association were to attempt to provide legislative contacts, local dues would (probably) be $600. Just writing letters to your legislative representative does not produce legislation. It takes a powerful lobby team in the state capitol, too.

What if I don’t agree with things the association does?
Fine! That’s your privilege. But can you honestly say that you agree 100% with every activity of your state legislature, your church, or Congress? Nonetheless, you don’t drop your citizenship, give up your voting franchise, stop going to church, and refuse to pay your taxes. Representative government—in organizations, as well as in nations—depends on people who “pay their dues” and who participate in decision-making. If you don’t agree with some direction the association is taking, join up; become active and work to change its course. Also, aren’t you making a mountain out of a molehill just as an excuse not to join? The majority of association activities such as professional development are “right.”

Why should I join? I will get all the salary benefits negotiated anyway.
Maybe. School boards are getting more and more sophisticated and want to know how many people the association represents. Representing some of the unit members isn’t enough. Eighty percent isn’t enough. Is the negotiating team representing the overwhelming majority, if not all, of the people? If not, we all might lose in negotiations this year. Joining shows the school board
that all of us are together behind negotiations. Secondly, aren’t you a little guilty about being a freeloader? Yes, I said freeloader. You know how much work some of the leadership puts in on negotiations, on representing you at local, regional, and state meetings. What do you give them in return? Isn’t it about time you pulled your own weight?

My wife (husband) also teaches. Why should we pay double dues?
Because you’re guaranteed double benefits. Membership isn’t altogether unlike an insurance policy. If one of you has an accident, it doesn’t help if the other is covered. The same thing applies if one of you needs legal assistance. Membership benefits come with membership.
When you were employed, it was not because of your marital status, but because the system felt you would make a good addition to the staff. (Do you not receive two paychecks?) The association works on behalf of each member . . . so that, in a sense, you and your spouse reap double benefits. Unless both of you join, you are only giving half of your support to your own
cause. We need strength and numbers in local negotiations and in state and national lobbying. Both of you have a big stake in the success of your association. Both should support it.

Why should I be involved in politics? I don’t believe school employees should be involved in politics.
You have a right to believe that, and you have a choice whether you want to contribute to the political action fund. Others who feel as you do join the organization but don’t support political activity. The important thing, however, is that they’re staying in the organization and supporting not only other school employees, but also themselves. You should know, however, that whether we like being in politics or not, it’s making a difference. When we elect friends of education to local, state, and national offices, the politicians don’t ignore us. Our political involvement has achieved collective bargaining laws, grievance procedures, reduction-in-force procedures, in-service pay, our retirement system, and leave provisions for teachers and support professionals. You only make things better when you work to make them better. Staying out of the system means you are ignored by those in the system.

As long as I’m a good employee, I don’t need NSEA/NEA. Good employees don’t get fired.
No one is immune from arbitrary non-renewals. Remember the last time a teacher was fired so a coach could be hired? Or when parent rumors cost an employee his/her job? There are many “horror” stories of educators losing their jobs and few of them have anything to do with how “good” they are. Parental complaints may lead to dismissals without cause.

NSEA/NEA defends incompetent education employees.
A goal of NSEA-NEA is to increase the professional quality of teachers and support professionals. Our main purpose is to defend members’ rights as provided by the laws of the nation and state and to ensure existing board policies and negotiated agreements are upheld. If members are dismissed, NSEA-NEA insures they receive due process and defense against firing for reasons other than incompetency such as rumors, hearsay, or personal (administrator) grudges.

I’ll be retiring soon, so I don’t need to join.
Your retirement income depends on salary gains these last years. We need your support to get maximum gains. Retired people have the greatest need of all for these vital protections and services. The association monitors such things as retirement funds and insurance. Join now and stay involved through NSEA-Retired. You’ll not only remain a vital part of education, but the association will continue to work 365 days a year to protect your investment and your future. You’ll benefit from the support of other association members.


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