Each summer, the corporatist front group Mackinac Center for Public Policy funds a massive effort to convince teachers that they are better off without their union and that they should leave it. While complaining that unions are somehow getting rich off taxpayer dollars, the Mackinac Center uses the public schools email system to disseminate their anti-union propaganda at taxpayer expense. Last year they sent emails to teachers in no fewer than 54 school districts in Michigan, laughably claiming the effort wasn’t political.
The effort also includes a massive mailing of letters and cards to the homes of teachers and this year is no different. What’s different about this year, however, is the rank hypocrisy of the woman they
are paying have duped into being their teacher’s face on their anti-union effort. This year, they chose Mary Davenport and she starts her letter to teachers with the statement, “I’m disillusioned with my union – the Michigan Education Association. When I needed help, the union wasn’t there.”
What Davenport doesn’t reveal is that the MEA has, in fact, been there for her on a number of occasions in the past when she “needed help”. MEA President Steven Cook responded quickly with a memo to teachers, setting the record straight:
FROM: Steven B. Cook, MEA President
DATE: June 10, 2015
RE: Mackinac Center Campaign
Beware: The Mackinac Center—a shadowy anti-public educator organization funded by corporate special interests—has begun its summer campaign to separate you from your union and attack your collective bargaining rights. Interestingly, this time they chose to use taxpayer-funded school emails to send their “message.”
The Mackinac Center has somehow persuaded its new media darling, Mary Davenport, who works in the Lansing School District, to “speak out” against MEA. The Mackinac Center has coached Ms. Davenport to repeat many of its tired and refuted attacks on MEA, then go on to say that the services MEA provides are not worth the dues and you should consider opting out.
It’s important to have a factual discussion of the many services that MEA has provided to Ms. Davenport. Despite her false claims, our organization has gone above and beyond to help Ms. Davenport. Frankly, we’re proud of the services we’ve provided to Ms. Davenport and every member of our union.
Here’s what we’ve done specifically for Ms. Davenport:
– Since 2003, MEA has provided legal representation to Ms. Davenport regarding multiple claims in multiple forums.
– MEA has provided her with no fewer than four attorneys to represent her.
– MEA has spent more than $160,000 representing Ms. Davenport in her claims.
– MEA has won approximately $65,000 in cash settlements for Ms. Davenport.
– Local UniServ directors and local association leadership have spent countless hours to address grievances filed on her behalf.
Despite all of the work we’ve done for Ms. Davenport, she has filed multiple duty of fair representation claims against MEA. MEA has spent more than $14,000 defending our union against those claims. All of the claims were dismissed. That’s her right, and it never stopped us from fighting for her, just as we would (and do) for any member.
MEA is committed to serving the teachers, education support professionals and higher education employees who comprise our union—including Ms. Davenport. The facts show that for her and the Mackinac Center to assert otherwise is another, in a long list, of blatant lies.
The fact is, MEA members receive numerous advantages for their careers, for their rights, for their wallets, and for public education. If you ever have any questions about the advantages of MEA membership, please call MEA’s Help Center toll-free at 866-MEA-HELP (866-632-4357) or e-mail [email protected]
Multiple claims. Four attorneys. $160,000 in expenses. A cash settlement to Davenport of around $65,000. It takes a lot of chutzpah to have that in your past and then make the outrageous claim that your union wasn’t there for you when you really needed them. More than that, it takes an unimaginable level of gall to turn around and sue the union that spent so much time and treasure fighting for you.
After reading Mary Davenport’s audacious and offensive hypocrisy, a Rochester teacher wrote an open letter to her and the front group she shills for. The email was titled “It’s our union”:
Ms. Davenport & the Mackinac Center hiding behind her:
I have REPEATEDLY asked to be taken OFF of this appalling and disingenuous smear campaign. The fact that you continue to harass the hard working teachers of this state — at their place of work — is disgusting to me.
Ms. Davenport — I can’t even imagine doing this to teachers. If you are SO unhappy with your union, perhaps you should stop enjoying all the privileges it has amassed for you over the years — every single word of your fairly negotiated contract.
Every proud union member (and MUCH of the general public) knows this is simply a way to break unions and line the pockets of corporations and Mackinac Center stooges. You should all be ashamed of yourselves.
I have already filed a complaint with the IRS last summer, and I will do so again. I am also encouraging every single member of the MEA and AFT to do the same. The harassment and bullying and outright LIES have got to stop.
I couldn’t have put it better myself.
[NOTE: If any teachers out there have a copy of the letter from the Mackinac Center, please consider scanning it and sending me a copy so I can update this post with it. – Thanks.]
UPDATE: I highly commend your attention to this “Open Letter To All Teachers Opting Out Of Your Union” and ask that you share it around. Here’s an excerpt:
I know you have opted out of the Union, and since if I knew you personally, I would most likely respect you as an educator, I wanted to share my take on this situation. I don’t know what your reasons for your actions are, and don’t expect that you need to share them with me. But I know that many of you,
1. feel you just can’t afford the dues. Perhaps you feel
2. the Union doesn’t do anything for you anyway. Maybe you feel
3. Unions have outgrown their usefulness.
Suffice it to say this long standing, well-funded and very carefully orchestrated attack on organized labor is not something I didn’t see coming. I have been watching it evolve since President Reagan busted the Air Traffic Controllers Union (PATCO) in 1981. When organized labor allowed that to happen, the writing was on the wall. And the attack has been predicated on you feeling one or all of the above to be true.
My take is as follows:
We need the Union now more than ever.
This isn’t about me and not about most of you. It is about the new teachers in your buildings; it’s about the future. It’s about all of those gifted and talented students you teach who dream of becoming a teacher one day. It’s about their expectation that they will be able to raise a family and own their own home. It’s about what I and most retired teachers enjoy. That is not what those new teachers in your building have to look forward to now, in the later stages of their careers, and after they retire.
Unions protect workers—Your working conditions are your students learning conditions. […]
The end of Unions is the end of Public Education—Period.
I may be wrong about you, but I don’t think this is a scenario you envision as being good for the future of your students, your profession, your state or your country.
UPDATE 2: You can read Mary Davenport’s deceitful email HERE. Here’s an excerpt that shows just how far she stretched the truth to encourage her fellow teachers to do something that is decidedly NOT in their own best interest or in the interest of their students:
As a teacher in my 27th year, born and raised in the city where I work, I’ve seen a lot over the years. My father was a General Motors factory worker and I was born and bred on UAW principals. But today, I’m disillusioned with my union – the Michigan Education Association.
When I needed help, the union wasn’t there. I had to fight on my own, paying thousands of dollars for attorneys, while the union liability service was denied. Is that what I’m forced to pay nearly $1,000 a year for?
If I could, I’d stop paying my dues – but my union negotiated a deal that forces me to continue paying until 2018. Luckily, for the first time, the majority of teachers and school employees in Michigan now have a choice.
In just the first three paragraphs, she’s told two lies. The first is that the MEA wasn’t there for her. The second is that teachers can opt out of their union “for the first time” this year. That has been an option for quite some time. If it wasn’t, why would the Mackinac Center engage in their corporate-funded “Opt Out August” effort every year?
UPDATE 3: Turns out Mary Davenport wasn’t “hired” by the Mackinac Center after all. She spewed her lies for free:
@Eclectablog She is absolutely not paid – we've never paid any teacher. Looking forward to the correction. She wanted to share her story.
— Jarrett Skorup (@JarrettSkorup) June 17, 2015
Which, of course, makes her not only a world class hypocrite. It makes her a world class schmuck. This post and its title have been updated accordingly.