The Michigan Education Association (MEA), headquartered in East Lansing, Michigan, is a labor union representing more than 157,000 teachers, faculty and education support staff throughout the state. Usually referred to as a “teachers' union” its membership also includes college faculty, public school custodians, bus drivers, and paraprofessionals, among others. It represents people working in neighborhood public schools, those in charter schools as well as school employees working for private companies.
While MEA works to serve its members’ employment goals, it also promotes public education. It sees these goals as closely related. Through policies put in place by its elected Board of Directors, MEA advocates for polices it judges to be best for student success, for civil rights and for the quality of life for all. Its mission statement states: “The mission of the MEA is to ensure that the education of our students and the working environments of our members are of the highest quality." Like other public sector unions, the MEA has come under fire in recent years for its defense of teacher employment protections. Controversy over the role of the MEA is part of a wider debate on the structure and funding of public education in Michigan and around the United States.
MEA was founded in 1852 as the Michigan State Teachers Association, five years before the National Education Association was organized, becoming the Michigan Education Association in 1926. Today it is the largest public employee union in the state and the third largest education association in the United States.
In 1937 the MEA’s governing body, the Representative Assembly, authorized the development of a group hospitalization program. This was one of the first such health care programs in the United States. Two years later, the Hoosier Casualty Company provided coverage for MEA members, administrated by local insurance agent Herman Henkel.
Michigan law forbade the MEA from acting as an agent for its members, so when Henkel retired in 1960, it was decided that a separate non-profit corporation would serve this function, and Michigan Education Special Services Association (MESSA) was born. 10,000 MEA members were enrolled at the time.
Tax-exempt under IRS 501(c)(9), MESSA qualified as a “voluntary employees’ beneficiary association” and could therefore offer group term life, health, and dental coverages, among others, to its members.
When the Michigan bargaining law was enacted in 1965, public school employees were able to organize into local bargaining units to negotiate salary, benefits and other working conditions. Insurance became a bargainable issue. In 1984, MEA merged with the Michigan Educational Support Personnel, making MEA one of the first state associations to represent both teachers and other school personnel. In 2007, MEA membership exceeded 160,000.
Steven B. Cook was elected president in April 2011.
Steven B. Cook assumed his position as President of the 155,000-member Michigan Education Association on September 1, 2011. He had served as Vice President of the association since 2006. Prior to that, he had served as Secretary-Treasurer of the association since 1991. His term as President expires August 31, 2014.
President of the Lansing Educational Assistants from 1981 to 1993, Cook was a paraprofessional for 15 years in the Lansing Public Schools, working as a community school coordinator, home/school liaison in the elementary attendance project and in alternative education. He holds a bachelor's degree from Michigan State University with emphasis in history, economics and political science.
Cook is the first non-teacher in the history of MEA to be elected President.
Nancy Strachan assumed her position as Vice President of MEA September 1, 2011. Her term expires August 31, 2014. Nancy began her teaching career in the Wayne-Westland school district in 1975 and was President of the WWEA prior to her election as MEA Vice President. In 2008, Nancy and her local gained statewide attention when she led her membership on a four-day walk-out, eventually achieving a favorable contract settlement.
As President, Nancy presided over the Executive Board, Governing Board, Grievance Committee and the Negotiations Team. She successfully negotiated four contracts during her term of office. In addition to her WWEA responsibilities, Nancy assisted on three crisis teams: Trenton EA, West Bloomfield EA and the Port Huron EA.
Nancy received her bachelor’s in physical education and master's degree in elementary education from Eastern Michigan University.
Rick Trainor assumed his position as secretary-treasurer of MEA September 1, 2011. His term expires August 31, 2014. Trainor comes to MEA statewide leadership from his previous position as President of the Mt. Pleasant Education Association (2002-2011). A teacher since 1977, Trainor has taught English and Physical Education in Mt. Pleasant for the past 21 years.
Trainor brings a wealth of experience to his new position as MEA Secretary-Treasurer, having served on numerous MEA boards and commissions, including the Local Affiliates Commission, the Legislative Commission, the Budget and Finance Committee and the MEA PAC Governing Board. He served as President of the Statewide Local Presidents Caucus (2005-2011) as well.
Trainor is a graduate of Central Michigan University and a former soccer coach at the high school and collegiate level.