MergerTalk By NEAFT Caucus Chair Morty Rosenfeld
IT’S TIME TO
I would bet a significant sum that among
the Democrats and Independents of Massachusetts who voted for Scott Brown were
numbers of AFT and NEA members who at least in part were motivated by the just
plain stupid education policies of this administration, policies that too many
union leaders are willing to embrace for a so-called seat at the table.
Their members know that it is a seat at their master’s feet begging for
scraps. They know too that no
increase in the number of charter schools or divisive pay for performance scheme
for public school teachers is going to address the problems of public education.
They know that the Race to the Top is but the latest scam of politicians
who have neither the knowledge, political savvy nor the guts to take on what’s
really wrong with
What many union members are beginning to wake up to is the
absolute necessity of putting aside the parochial differences that have kept the
NEA and AFT apart. They are tired of
having one union played off against the other.
A recent New
York Times editorial
is but the latest example of how our voice is weakened by a senseless
competition that has completely lost its meaning to the rank and file members of
both organizations. Speaking about
AFT President Randi Weingarten’s recent speech before the National Press Club,
the Times opined, “The American
Federation of Teachers, the second-largest teachers’ union, has been working
hard to distance itself from its competitor, the National Education Association,
which tends to resist sensible reforms. The federation’s president, Randi
Weingarten, set the contrast quite effectively with a speech last week in
Lost on the writer of the editorial is the fact that the culture of the
two unions leads them to approach issues differently. In
recent years they tend to wind up in much the same place on most matters, the
differences between them of significance only to those who benefit from keeping
the two unions apart. To the people
in the classrooms, in the school offices and on the buses, there is great
difficulty differentiating the positions of the two.
To the public, however, the union that inclines more towards the Times’ view is the good union.
The other, obstructionist, resistant to reform – a special interest.
Lost to all except most of the membership of the NEA and AFT is that both
organizations have been desperately looking for a way to address the ills of
Imagine if we had a merged union today. Imagine the leaders of NEAFT going to the White House and telling the truth to power, telling them that all the data in the world doesn’t make a good school, no number of charter schools will raise educational standards in America, no teacher stultifying test prep program will educate our young, that the only way we can begin to rebuild and strengthen our public schools is to begin to cherish them as central to the health of our democracy. We must begin to find ways to tap into the creativity of our almost four million members who so often know what needs to be done. We must harness their vision, their energy and their decency to combat those arrayed against us. We’ll never do that as AFT or NEA. Imagine if we told them that we demand to be central players in improving our schools, and, if we can't be, they should not count on our members continuing to support them at the polls.
With an NEAFT we would have a fighting chance. Our focus has to be on unity. It’s our only hope.