Teachers union tells members to toss letter on opting out ‘in the garbage’

The St. Paul Federation of Educators told members to toss the letter from the Freedom Foundation "in the garbage," according to an email obtained by Alpha News.

Education Minnesota's headquarters in St. Paul, Minn. (Alpha News)

The St. Paul Federation of Educators (SPFE) is encouraging teachers to ignore a letter from the Freedom Foundation notifying them of their right to opt out of Education Minnesota, the state’s teachers union.

Caitlin Reid, lead organizer for SPFE, sent an email with an “anti-union postcard alert” telling members to toss the letter from the Freedom Foundation “in the garbage” and let their building organizers know if they received it, according to a copy of the email obtained by Alpha News. Reid did not respond to a request for comment.

Opt Out Today is a campaign from the Freedom Foundation encouraging union members nationwide to reclaim their personal freedoms and get out of unions.

The organization mailed letters to St. Paul teachers notifying them of their rights and their option to stop paying dues.

Laurel Berker, a union organizer, told Alpha News the Freedom Foundation is “targeting” St. Paul teachers. She said teachers should not respond to the letter.

“They will tell you that SPFE is not good for you, and they can give you something better,” she said. “We want to know the names of the people who are getting these.”

“If more people opted out, the union would change,” according to a metro teacher who asked to remain anonymous.

The teacher, a former union representative, said she opted out of participating in the union and encouraged others to do the same. She realized during COVID that the union doesn’t care about what’s best for education or teachers, she told Alpha News.

“They never surveyed us (teachers) to ask what we thought. During COVID, they tried to scare us,” she said. “One article in one of the magazines read something like ‘hope you have your will in order.’ The article was all about how many teachers were going to die or be on oxygen tanks if we went back to school.”

She said that opting out hasn’t changed anything for her as a teacher.

‘A sense of liberation’

The three-page Freedom Foundation letter outlines how Education Minnesota spends members’ dues and that opting out will not affect benefits a teacher receives. The letter says that under state law, teachers who opt out will not lose compensation, health benefits, retirement, or anything else governed by the collective bargaining agreement. The contract is binding on all teachers whether they belong to the union or not.

The Freedom Foundation site provides a link to an opt out form and detailed instructions on how teachers can opt out.

“Let’s talk about some of your colleagues who have made this choice,” the letter reads. “They are teachers, like you, who were once union members but opted out. They report increased job satisfaction, financial savings, and a sense of liberation, knowing they are true to themselves.”

To date, more than 2,400 people have opted out of unions in Minnesota.

A St. Paul teacher who asked to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation said SPFE is “agitated” because the letter details how Education Minnesota spends members’ dues. Ninety-one of the 281 paid union employees make six-figure salaries, with union President Denise Specht making $221,462 a year, according to the letter.

“I pay $970 a year for union dues, and it’s going to radical left-wing, progressive politics I do not agree with. It’s slowly getting to this point where you can’t disagree anymore. You can disagree, but you’re not going to like the outcome,” he said. He explained that teachers who opt out will face consequences from union members but he is still seriously considering opting out.

“If you choose to do something different, you’re going to pay a price. The state does have a law saying that they will represent you, but they can throw all kinds of metaphorical monkey wrenches, so to speak, that can put you in a situation to make you feel uncomfortable,” he said.

According to the Freedom Foundation, Education Minnesota collected $31.1 million in dues and fees from its members in fiscal year 2022.

In 2022, Education Minnesota spent $2.3 million on political activity and lobbying, $650,010 on airfare and hotels, $193,027 on private attorneys and consultations, and $118,274 on food and catering, the letter explains.

A portion of SPFE member dues are sent to affiliates Education Minnesota and the National Education Association (NEA), the letter says.

SPFE is also boycotting NEA’s annual meeting this year because it will take place in Florida. The union cited an NAACP travel advisory that warns “Florida is openly hostile toward African Americans, people of color and LGBTQ+ individuals.”


Sheila Qualls

Sheila Qualls is an award-winning journalist and former civilian editor of an Army newspaper. Prior to joining Alpha News, she was a Christian Marriage and Family columnist at Patheos.com and a personal coach. Her work has been published in The Upper Room, the MOPS blog, Grown and Flown, and The Christian Post. She speaks nationally on issues involving faith and family.