Surveys have shown that a great many teachers and MEA members disagree with the positions the union takes on issues and the goals it tries to accomplish using their dues dollars. However, MEA officials often ignore the wishes of the union membership and instead use pressure tactics and threats to compel individual teachers to contribute to union causes and activities, even those not related to education.
The president of a local MEA affiliate in the Van Buren school district sent each teacher a fundraising letter stating that they should contribute $60 or more to the union’s partisan political efforts "if you expect to be working in this district next year." This amount was to be over and above the teachers’ union dues payments.
A July 13, 1998, editorial in The Detroit News criticized the Van Buren MEA affiliate for using such "strong-arm tactics" and "extortionate methods" on its own members. Three days later, an article in the Belleville-Area Independent, the newspaper covering Van Buren schools, revealed that some of these funds, given to the union by teachers "with a gun held to their heads," were donated to a committee formed to advocate for a millage increase—the day after the voters had approved the millage. "This is all a bit strange," concluded the editorial.