NEA/NEW YORK ELECTIONS

WHAT DO THEY SAY ABOUT THE FUTURE?

5/2/03

 

    When I decided to run for the Presidency of NEA/New York, I had essentially two goals - to advocate an agenda for fundamentally changing the direction of that floundering organization and, if elected, to bring some sound management systems and procedures to a bureaucracy in which management and staff appear totally unconnected to any discernable mission. Along with Matt Jacobs and Larry Ruth, we set about trying to convince the leaders of NEA/New York of the need for profound change if its future is to be any other than dim.

    Any sober analysis of the election results yields the ineluctable conclusion that the delegates were uninterested in change. I can easily accept the delegates rejecting my candidacy. However, Matt Jacobs who was elected by a handful of votes, was almost defeated by a very nice person with absolutely no experience to even remotely qualify her to lead a union of the size of NEA/New York, especially a union facing the daunting problems that beset this one. Then, too, the rejection of Larry Ruth, a committed leader of our organization since its birth, for a person who has never offered an idea on any issue, is about as clear a message of a suicidal clinging to the status quo as can be imagined.

    As important as the officer election was a proposed constitutional amendment that would have permitted NEA/New York to organize workers in educationally related job titles like librarian, school bus driver and health care workers at teaching hospitals. For the fourth year in a row, the two thirds vote constitutionally necessary for passage could not be obtained, even though the only possible long range solution to the financial problems of the organization is to grow and even though we have been approached by workers in these job titles who wish to belong to our union. Once again, there were enough of those who tenaciously struggle to keep things the way they are, despite the fact we have been losing substantial numbers of members and in all likelihood will lose more to layoff in these very difficult economic times.

    While I have enormous respect and confidence in the intelligence and skill of Matt Jacobs, his addition to the leadership team as best will improve some things at the margins. The simple fact is that there is too much wrong with the organization for one person to fix, let alone one person who essentially derives his authority from the president of the organization. The problems grow bigger each day. Even before the new officers are installed, we learned that the Adirondack Faculty Association of over one hundred members voted to leave NEA/New York. Once again, a local union was dissatisfied enough to pull out and not a single elected leader or staff member seems to have known about it.

    Why is there such a reluctance to change even in the face of such demonstrable need for it? Despite the charge against them that they are ultra-liberal radicals, the fact is that people in education are a rather conservative lot in the strict sense of that term. They just donít like change. It scares them. However, to this explanation must be added what I believe to be an even more sad truth. Too many leaders of NEA/New York oppose change because they fear a loss of a place for themselves in a changed organization. If things start changing, perhaps there will be fewer meetings for them to attend, fewer stays in posh hotels, fewer plane rides around the state, fewer meals at the membership's expense. Change might bring with it not being considered as important as one currently is. The contemplation of change requires thinking about what would best serve the members in our schools and putting their interests above those of their leaders. Too many appear incapable of doing that. These same leaders are almost always the ones who lament the fact the too many of our members appear unconnected to either their local or state organization. With leaders like these, I canít blame them.

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