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   MERGER FIASCO

11/20/00

    The merger discussions between the National Education Association (NEA) and the American Federation of Teachers have reached an impasse. It is now clear that there will not be a merger proposal before either organizations convention this summer. Despite months of meetings, the employment of a group of university based facilitators and the fact that the two unions are essentially ideologically merged already, the negotiating teams of both unions were unable to craft a merger agreement that could possibly overcome the objections to the last merger agreement which was overwhelmingly defeated by the NEA Representative Assembly.

    Nothing in this news is in any way surprising. NEA leadership has naively attempted to patch together a merger in Washington without ever doing crucial ground-laying work in the states where opposition to any kind of merger is intense. They simply haven’t the stomach for the difficult politics that would have to be undertaken to create a pro-merger grassroots pressure on those state and local leaders who have engineered defeat of a merger to date.

    What is surprising is that the membership of the NEA has heard nothing about the latest demise of a merger with the AFT from the leadership of our national union. My first clue that the talks had broken down came from a right-wing web page that I monitor because of their habit of quoting from my web articles. While I’ve since corroborated much of what the hate-NEA page had to say about the aborted merger talks, it’s simply galling to have to monitor the workings of one’s national union through the lens of a right-wing publication that appears to be dedicated to the destruction of public education.

    Apparently, the spin on the breakdown of the merger talks will be that the two unions will continue to seeks projects on which they can work together and which will bring their memberships together in common cause. Of course, the no raid agreement currently in place will be reaffirmed. The parties will also dedicate themselves to attempting to build sentiment for a merger from the ground up. Would that they had embraced this idea before they started this whole merger fiasco.

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