Allison Soto was a member of the Connecticut Education Association (CEA) and the National Education Association (NEA) for twenty-four years. Until the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, Allison rarely questioned her union membership.
When she began her teaching career, Allison was required to join the union. Even after the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court ruling came down, Allison says that she was intrigued, but “not sure how to go about getting out of the union” and figured she would just “stick it out,” remaining a dues-paying member until retirement.
That was until Gov. Lamont of Connecticut signed an order mandating the COVID-19 shot series for all public-school teachers. Having questions about the exemption process and her First Amendment rights, Allison did what any union member might have in similar circumstances – she went to her union for answers.
“I reached out to the vice president of my local union to ask my questions. From the moment the conversation began, he was rude, combative and my choice was not respected. I felt as if the union did not fight for me during this time, which is why I was adamant that I would leave at the end of that school year.”
Allison was not alone in her determination to find answers to her questions. She says, “During COVID, I connected with other teachers in Connecticut who had similar experiences.”
Allison also began attending online meetings through a local educators’ group. That is when she learned about Americans for Fair Treatment (AFFT) and union alternatives like the Association of American Educators (AAE). After finally feeling supported and empowered, Allison chose to opt out of the CEA in August of 2022—right before the new school year. “Through [AFFT] I learned about alternative associations and joined AAE at the start of the 2022-2023 school year,” Allison shares.
As a member of AFFT, Allison received a scholarship covering her first year with AAE, where she plans to remain a member until retirement.
The support that Allison received helped her to remain in the classroom, serving her community and doing what she loves most. As a passionate educator, Allison encourages those who are new to the field to “do their research,” prior to deciding which option is the best fit for each individual.
In addition to the support and resources that have kept her in the classroom, Allison says she is the most excited about the Professional Development credits offered to AFFT members at a discounted rate. “I just signed up for 24 hours of professional development credits at a reduced rate, thanks to AFFT! Bottom line, I feel like AFFT has provided me with opportunities and information that have encouraged me to be a more knowledgeable person and a better teacher.”