Monday, March 12, 2007

Union Goings-On

This week's EIA (see blogroll at left) Communique gives us some interesting union stories from around the country:

NEA to Revive Booster Club Proposal. NEA's attempt to create a category of associate membership fell short at last year's convention, but the union will try again this July in Philadelphia. This would open NEA membership to people not employed in public education. Why? Well, as EIA revealed last year, NEA can only collect PAC money from members, so associate membership would help the union deal with its collection problem. Only seven percent of NEA members currently donate to the national PAC.

There will also be a proposal to immediately increase contributions to the union's ballot initiative and legislative crisis fund to $10 per member per year. The money is disseminated to state affiliates to support or defeat ballot measures or legislation the union deems important. This proposal simply accelerates a previously approved gradual increase to the fund.

During the 2006 campaign, NEA divided its staff into two groups and placed a virtual wall between them, in order to allow one group to operate in support of candidates and subject to federal election regulations, and the other to distance itself from candidates, but operate under the rules of union political activity. This must have worked well because NEA will make the set-up permanent. The union's Government Relations department will now have a Public Policy section to handled traditional lobbying activities, while the Campaigns and Elections section will work to recruit and support candidates for federal office.

Sault Tribe Charter Teachers Eject Union. It dragged on for a long time, and was a mishmash of conflicting national and state labor laws, charter school authorization policies, tribal sovereignty and internal tribe politics, but teachers at the Joseph K. Lumsden Bahweting Anishnabe charter school voted 19-13 to decertify the Michigan Education Association as its bargaining representative.

The school is associated with the Sault Tribe of Chippewas, whose leadership was very much opposed to the union presence. The intensity of feelings about the school on both sides was illustrated by the hundreds of comments posted by tribe members on Intercepts when EIA reported the story in October 2005.

Off the Reservation in San Diego. There have been fewer and fewer fireworks at the annual NEA convention as the years have gone by, but we may see some this year over NEA's "fix and fund" policy for the No Child Left Behind Act. The board of directors of the San Diego Education Association passed a resolution that states, in part, that NCLB "cannot be overhauled, fixed or properly funded," and instructs SDEA delegates to the NEA convention to introduce a new business item that would support scrapping NCLB entirely.

We can expect opposition to this at national NEA similar to that demonstrated against the petition championed by Susan Ohanian last December (see Item #2 here).


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