NEA/ NEW YORK REACHES FOR THE FUTURE  

November 15, 2004  

                I have never been prouder of my membership on the Board of Directors of NEA/ New York .  

            On November 12, the NEA/New York Board took a significant step to end the state of hostilities that has existed for almost thirty years between them and the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT).  By a roll call vote of 51 to 6, the Board of Directors of NEA/ New York voted to support the Principles of Merger negotiated between the officers of the two state unions and to recommend the adoption of the document by the April Delegate Assembly of the organization.  The NYSUT Executive Committee is expected to take similar action shortly.  If the conventions of both state unions approve the Principles in April, we can begin putting the two organizations together as soon as September, 2006.     

            I had no problem casting my vote for merger.  I have been an outspoken advocate for it since 1982.  Yet, I know that for many of my colleagues on the Board, this vote was probably the most difficult they have ever made.  Quite a few have had a long history of opposition to merger.  For most, their entire experience of the education union movement has been in NEA/New York, an experience that has been punctuated by periods of representation struggles between the two state organizations, struggles that had a way of demonizing the leaders of NYSUT and sharpening the differences between the two unions while adumbrating the many more ways in which they are very similar.   In NEA/ New York , they assumed important leadership positions, positions that have them traveling to meetings across the country.  As we merge the two boards of directors, many of us will have less visible roles in the new organization.  Those that remain in the governance of the new organization will find themselves essentially unknown, coming from an organization of forty thousand members and merging with one of four hundred and fifty thousand.   

            Only strong, outstanding leaders who can subordinate their needs to those of their membership cast votes that may lessen their personal power and influence.  They do so when they see that something bigger than themselves depends on their vote.  The NEA/New York Board is able to see the future.  They see that there is no longer any reason for two state education unions, that whatever differences that once existed no longer mean anything to the vast majority of our membership who, whether NYSUT or NEA New York, face the same daunting problems in their schools, problems that can be better addressed by the collective power of a unified education labor movement. They see the diminishing returns of attempting to finance NEA/ New York on a smaller and smaller membership base and the economy of scale to be achieved by a single state union.  They see the opportunity of a newly created organization to imagine new possibilities to save our public schools from the forces bent on their destruction.  That hopeful future is bigger than they are, and they are willing to face that important truth and not stand in its way.  

            For the first time in more than twenty years of working for a merger, I am optimistic that it will happen in April.  Our membership has wanted it for a long time.  We know that from a membership survey done a year or so ago.  It has been their leaders who have prevented it.  Now that their leaders have overwhelmingly chosen to embrace the future and all of the changes it will bring, the job of convincing two thirds of the delegates to the 2005 Delegate Assembly of NEA/ New York has gotten much easier.

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