OVERCOMES ONE MORE OBSTACLE
The good news for New Yorkers
from the 2005 NEA Convention in
is that the body approved (4,943 in favor (65%) and 2,664
against (35%)), a change to its by-laws to permit
implementation of the merger agreement between NEA/
and the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT).
While the by-laws of the NEA mandate that officers of state affiliates be
elected by secret ballot, an exemption has been carved out for
whereby locals will have the option of deciding on how they will vote for state
officers, an option not open to NYSUT locals before.
Now, work can proceed to draft a constitution for the new state
organization to be put before their respective conventions for ratification next
April. Assuming passage, the new
organization will be open for business in September 2006. The
end will finally come to the senseless competition between two unions whose
central mission is the same – saving public education from the reactionary
right that seeks its demise.
The discomforting report
from the convention is the ferocity of those NEA delegates who sought to defeat
the by-law amendment and thereby the
merger. In the name of high
principle, the inalienable right of NEA members to vote for officers by secret
ballot, some I met would rather have lost the thirty-five thousand NEA members
in New York than countenance sanctioning a change to the by-laws that applied
only to New York and that extended the right to vote by secret ballot to the
four hundred and fifty thousand NYSUT members who previously did not have that
Those familiar with the NEA will be tempted to think that I’m talking
about delegates from some of the southern states, those more conservative parts
of the country. While to be sure
some states like
voted against us, it is harder to understand the militant opposition of labor
. Reaching out to a delegate from
I met at a meeting of the National Council of Urban Educators, an influential
caucus in the NEA, I was totally nonplussed by his angry response to a simple
and friendly request to discuss the by-law amendment with him and some of his
colleagues. “Why are you talking
to me?” he said in the most unwelcoming tone.
“We don’t want to talk about any merger.
We’re against all mergers with the AFT.”
Silly me, I thought the
debate was about secret ballot.
In her farewell column
for the New Jersey Education Association, retiring President Edithe Fulton finds
herself wishing for a magic wand to bring about certain desirable outcomes among
which is, “Adding shades of gray to a black and white world-view. Harsh
lines are being drawn in the world every day between cultures and nations,
emphasizing differences over shared concerns. We are all passengers on this tiny
rock, heading toward a common destination. We must never forget that.”
The same could well be said about the merger of once rival unions.
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