CHANGE  and NEA/NEW YORK

11/10/03

    Shortly after the NEA/ New York officer elections in May, I wrote a column about the results of those elections that provoked considerable ire in the leadership of our state organization.  I had the temerity to suggest that the outcome of the elections and the failure of a constitutional amendment to permit us to organize in “educationally related” job titles was “…about as clear a message of a suicidal clinging to the status quo as can be imagined.”   

     Suicidal turns out to be the correct term to describe the failure of NEA/ New York to meet the challenges that have faced it for the past few years.  Organizations that cannot accommodate change are almost always overcome by it.  Such is clearly what is happening to NEA/ New York .  Just since September, we have seen the predictable disaffiliation of our Deer Park , Hicksville , and Greece ESP locals with others contemplating the wisdom of remaining with a union whose membership is declining, whose leadership is without a plan to turn it around and whose staff union appears bizarrely indifferent to the membership losses of the last two years.  

      Lest anyone think I’m gloating over these dismal realities, I’ve spent the last twenty years or so attempting to do what I could to effect a merger between NEA/ New York and NewYork State United Teachers (NYSUT).  Along with other leaders who understand the wisdom of having one union speaking with one voice for people working in public education, I am sickened by the failure of that effort.  With NYSUT foolishly refusing to extend a no-raid agreement that had existed between the two organizations apparently out of a belief that it would be better for them to just absorb as much of a troubled NEA/New York as they can, and with NEA/New York without any power to leverage NYSUT into a merger deal, the likelihood that there can be a merger is simply evaporating.  Slowly but surely, NEA/ New York locals that have been pro-merger are disaffiliating, making it less and less likely that the two thirds vote necessary for NEA/ New York to approve a merger deal can be achieved, even if miraculously the leaders of the two unions could reach agreement.  Sadly, this sorry state of affairs is what passes for an education labor movement today.

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