An experienced elementary school teacher, Mary Beth enjoys her career and living her faith, but had wondered if the state’s teachers union knew her or cared about her beyond extracting dues from her paycheck.
For years, she felt neglected by the Pennsylvania State Education Association (PSEA). “I never really had a relationship with PSEA other than them taking money out of my paycheck,” she said. “PSEA still doesn’t know I exist, and the same held true when I was a member,” she added.
Mary Beth heard about AFFT from a friend and colleague who is an AFFT member. She said that she joined AFFT because she “needed guidance on what to do once I quit my local union and PSEA.” After becoming a member, Mary Beth has become “more knowledgeable about unions in general” and AFFT “answered every question I have had pertaining to my personal union experience.”
In her words, “AFFT is my safety net; I know I can count on them to have my best interest at heart.”
Through AFFT, she was able to find Christian Educators (CE), a union alternative. Mary Beth said, “I love being a part of Christian Educators.” She noted that CE’s newsletters help her “bring [her] spiritual side” to the work she does. Mary Beth said she enjoys their membership benefits and how she can be “informed on how certain legislation may affect my religious freedoms.”
Her advice to interns, new teachers—or even other public workers—is to find out more information about their local or state union.
For Pennsylvania teachers, she recommends researching “who PSEA donates money to and what agendas they are trying to push on educators and children.” Mary Beth added, “I would also advise them to determine if PSEA stands in line with their personal political beliefs.”
To the everyday person, Mary Beth suggested similar advice.
“In this day and age, there is so much information out there about unions, so please do your research before joining a union,” she said. “There are alternatives to big unions; just put in the time to find what aligns with you.”
Mary Beth suggests that people ask themselves questions, such as “Do they [the union] back your beliefs?” After asking reflective questions like this, she believes people can find clarity about whether unions or union alternatives work best for them, their beliefs, and their career.