There’s been a lot of talk about PPE lately. What is that? What does PPE stand for?

PPE is the abbreviation for Personal Protection Equipment. In cooler, calmer and more casual terms, it is equipment that us humans can personally wear over parts of our human bodies to protect us from external threats.

We’re in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the best advice any of us have gotten for personally protecting ourselves from catching this novel coronavirus, is to cover our mouths and noses. COVID-19 is, most likely, transmitted most efficiently through airborne particles, so if you limit the amount of these particles you breathe into your human form, you can — in theory — reduce the risk that you catch this virus. Face masks work well for that purpose, I’m told. More on that later in this exciting, new edition of United Voices magazine.

OK, next question. What’s the abbreviation for the thing we use to protect a whole bunch of persons (or people, if you want to get all grammatical) from external threats? Is it GPE — Group Protection Equipment?

No, it’s NDU. That’s short for North Dakota United.

Let’s talk about that. North Dakota United (or ND United, or NDU, whatever strikes your fancy) is the state’s predominant association of public employees and educators. With 11,500 members (and growing!), our union is the state’s largest, loudest, most effective voice for quality public education and public services. Period. End of sentence.

What makes NDU that large, that loud, that effective? That’s simple. It’s you.

Every person who receives this magazine is North Dakota United. There’s a meme going around social media that says: “Workers don’t join their union. They are their union.” NDU is not a thing that you join. It’s you.

NDU stands for you.

That concludes today’s lesson. Now, we move onto the exercise. I’ve included two sample answers, for your reference. Write out your answer in your workbooks, at home, and when you’re done, please take a picture of your answer and send it to me by e-mail to Or you can drag a picture of a check mark on top of a picture of an empty square, either electronically, on a sheet of paper or just do this in your mind. I’m not actually a teacher, so I can’t offer you any credit. NO CREDIT.




(Sample Answer #1)

What does NDU stand for?

NDU stands for Melissa Bucchop.
Melissa Bucchop

Melissa is a fourth-grade teacher in Grand Forks. She is the current President of the Grand Forks Education Association (GFEA), our local affiliate of NDU for employees of the Grand Forks Public Schools district, and has previously served as vice president and negotiator for GFEA. “When I got my teaching job, I had friends who said, ‘You should do this, you should be more active, you should be a part of this.’ And I was like, ‘No, no, I don’t have time for that.’ Then a few years ago, I was asked to be a part of negotiations. And I actually really enjoyed being a part of that. So from there on, I ended up getting more involved.

“I think one of the big things is that we have a voice and that we get to sit at the table for negotiations and we get to bring things forward. Together, we get to say the things that the teachers want or need or that would be helpful to retain our teachers in our town. And we actually get to sit down and voice those issues and work it out with the school board.”

“And then especially now with COVID, we very much have been in the loop and asking teachers. There’s even been situations that have come up before the school year started when they were looking at some of our teachers, especially within special ed, having to teach digital and in-person because of caseloads. And before they made that decision, H.R. reached out to me and said, ‘Hey, can you have a meeting with me and the special ed director so that we can talk through how we can make this work. So it’s very much moving in the right direction right now. I think in Grand Forks there is open communication and we definitely are being heard.”


(Sample Answer #2)

What does NDU stand for?

NDU stands for Jessica Hawkes.
Jessica Hawkes

Jessica worked as assistant to the Eddy County State’s Attorney in New Rockford. She started in January 2019, and also joined both NDU and North Dakota Public Employees (NDPE), our statewide local affiliate for employees of the state, counties and municipalities, as well as most of our public universities.

“For me, I was honored to finally have the opportunity to join a union, and I did so immediately upon starting this job. It feels like a team pulling for all of our interests, not just a few of us individually trying to be heard. Even the topics that don’t pertain to me directly I like to know that my voice also stands with the people it matters to.”

“Having worked in the school system previously as a business manager, I was familiar with the NDEA (North Dakota Education Association) side of the unions. My parents were both teachers and NDEA union members while I was growing up in the ’80s and ’90s, and I remember them discussing contract negotiations and other union matters at home.”

“I often see NDU in the news and on social media, making statements, discussing legislation, and acting on our behalf. I also am aware of the legal tools and other membership benefits available to me, and I would recommend to others that they take an honest, open look at what NDU has to offer. Moreover, North Dakota workers should stand together and demand more equitable treatment and a better quality of life, for each other, and for ourselves. The union is the voice to do it.”