SISLER High School teacher Matthew Stacey is a staunch union member and supporter of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights -- coming from a long line of Welsh miners will do that to someone.
But he bristles when his own union, the Manitoba Teachers' Society, wants to spend $1.5 million in union dues -- $91 over five years from Stacey -- to name a classroom in the new museum.
"The issue isn't about giving money away, the issue is about consulting people," said Stacey. "You have to go out and actively inform people. At this school, most teachers had no clue."
Stacey said it should be left to individuals to choose their charities. "This is not about the museum and I'm not anti-union. I don't think they have any right to dictate their conscience to us."
Stacey has called on Gail Asper, a trustee with the CMHR and the driving force behind the museum as president of the Asper Foundation, to reject the $1.5 million from the MTS.
"All citizens of Canada are entitled to freedom of conscience and freedom of association, and for me, charitable donations are guided by conscience," Stacey wrote to Asper. "The irony of fundamental rights and freedoms being contravened in the name of a human rights charity is both unfortunate and unsettling."
Asper has not responded and the Friends of the CMHR, the museum's fundraising arm, said in a terse statement Thursday, "This is a matter between a union member and his union. That being the case, it would be inappropriate for Friends to comment further."
Stacey said no union rep had come to Sisler, the province's largest school, to inform teachers of plans for the $1.5 million to name a classroom within the museum, a plan approved by delegates to the MTS annual general meeting last month.
He said there are petitions against the donation being signed at Sisler, Daniel McIntyre, General Wolfe, Sargent Park, Greenway and Gordon Bell schools.
MTS president Paul Olson acknowledged Thursday he's hearing some complaints from teachers, but, "The amount of information that went out on this was biblical in scale.
"The media on this has been extensive," and the MTS informed teachers through its website and the Manitoba Teacher magazine, he said.
The way Stacey argues, said Olson, "Democratic participation seems to be predicated on the belief that you sit there and wait for someone to come to your school to see how you feel that day."
Olson said paying for naming rights is entirely appropriate for a union.
"The fundamental notion of a union is that it's collective action," Olson said.