Can I be a person of faith and a member of my union?

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Every effective faith leader in history was a teacher.

Each led people who sought better lives for themselves and their communities. Each gave their followers responsibilities, and training to carry out their work. Each advocated for children, the elderly, the disabled, those without wealth or power, and working people. Each urged women and men to support and protect one another and taught that we are interdependent and worthy of one another’s care.

In all of these ways, every effective faith leader was a unionist.

Likewise, every effective union in history has been a faith-based organization, rooted in the faith that every child has the potential to achieve, everyone has value and every family deserves respect and support. Its core belief is that our democratic republic – governments, courts, laws, and contracts – have no greater mission than to serve all of our interests fairly, equitably and without fear or favor.

Every effective union, like every effective faith community, is an organization of stewardship and purpose. Its servant-leaders are called to serve and to lead – by and for its membership – to advance its faith, vision and mission. Every effective union fights for the least of these our brethren, values humanity, gives voice to the voiceless, and protects one another – and the children we serve – from attack and discrimination.

Joining a union doesn’t compromise one’s faith. Rather, it carries that faith from sacred space into public space, from the sanctuary to the public square. What effective faith leader would deny anyone’s right to participate fully in their community, to advance fairness, respect, opportunity, brotherhood and sisterhood and self-determination?

A union is the collaborative effort of people to achieve fuller lives, better opportunities and stronger communities through collective action. Collective action led to the founding of our nation and its freedoms, helped to steer America through its greatest challenges and to shape our nation’s character.

The challenges we face today require the same spirit of cooperation.

Yes, you can be a person of faith and join your union. If rumors and mischaracterizations concern you, seek clarity. No religious conviction or doctrinal decree should bar your membership in a union that advocates for you, your students, your profession and your community.

A more abundant life – for yourself, your family, and your community – is your birthright. Your union sisters and brothers are eager to help you achieve all that you deserve.

Cecil Cahoon is an organizational specialist with the National Education Association, the

NEA.

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