A bigger threat than Friedrichs ever was.


In reaction to the mass killings in Charleston last year, Bree Newsome climbed a flag pole in front of the state Capitol and took down the Confederate flag. A year later, the NEA has barely reacted at all.

Union teachers breathed a sigh of relief when the Supremes failed to uphold Friedrichs in a recent decision. Had the court ruled differently the right to Fair Share, or agency fees, would have been taken away from us. Agency fees are the fees all employees must pay to the union for the cost of bargaining and the duty to represent them in disputes with management.

There is a greater threat to teacher unions than Friedrichs ever was.

That threat is frequently the poor leadership of the teachers union itself. Leaders like Cinda Klickna, President of the Illinois Education Association, Lily Eskelesen Garcia of the NEA, Michael Mulgrew of the UFT and his boss, Randi Weingarten President of the American Federation of Teachers.

Yesterday I received the results of the recent elections for delegates to the National Education Association’s Representative Assembly. It will take place this year in D.C. in July.

The results illustrate exactly what I am saying.

Delegates are mainly elected by a vote of local members. But state leaders are elected in an at-large election of the entire 120,000 state-wide membership.

Compare the 2015 results to the 2016 results:



1600 votes out of 120,000 is nothing to get excited about. But this year the number of members voting for the union’s highest governing body is half of what is what last year.

Members don’t feel connected to the IEA or the NEA.

IEA Retired also sends its own group of delegates.

Disclosure: I recently resigned from IEA Retired after four years of trying to build a chapter where there had been none. Although we were successful in establishing a chapter, I no longer believe IEA serves the interests of retired teachers.

It appears I am not alone.

IEA Retired claims 12,000 members. IEA Retired delegates also elect national convention delegates on a state-wide ballot. I was elected each time I ran, an unusual accomplishment for a newly retired member.

Here is a comparison between last year and this year’s vote for Retired delegates. I did not run as a delegate this year:



Again, less than half the turn-out.

Of course, this is just one measure of membership engagement. It is a significant measure.

Yesterday I also received the final of three reports on the NEA’s leadership implementation of my New Business Item 11 from last year’s Representative Assembly. New Business 11 directed the NEA leadership to take action in response to the flying of the Confederate flag in schools and public spaces. Since it is new business, action must be taken before the next Representative Assembly.

My NBI resulted in a two-hour debate. Language calling for the removal of all symbols of the Confederacy were removed from the NBI over my objection. It then passed overwhelmingly.

The first two reports I received earlier this year reported no action had been taken.

Here is the final report I received yesterday:

NEA drafted model state legislation and a model school board resolution that were distributed to state affiliates. We also conducted a comprehensive research project to analyze state activity, and coordinated and shared model legislation and resolution language with national civil rights partners for work within particular states.  NEA shared model language with Members of Congress who have taken a leadership role regarding this issue. At the time of this report, very few states or local school boards had introduced bills or resolutions calling for the removal of the Confederate battle flag from public spaces and/or public schools.  With our model legislation in hand, state affiliates can work to get laws passed around the country. NEA has also highlighted actions in communities and states across the country.  A story on EdVotes.org is slated for spring 2016 to share information and drive activism to end the use of the Confederate battle flag.

Last year’s Representative Assembly in Orlando followed by a few weeks the mass killing of nine African American members of the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. The killer was a white supremacist.

Bree Newsome, a Charleston activist, was in no mood to wait for officials to do something. She climbed to the top of the flag pole in front of the Charleston capitol building and took down the Confederate flag that had flown there since the Civil Rights Movement of the sixties. She was arrested by Charleston police.

“In the name of Jesus, this flag has to come down. You come against me with hatred and oppression and violence. I come against you in the name of God. This flag comes down today,” Newsome said.

Meanwhile the NEA responded a year later with model legislation yet to be distributed to state affiliates along with a soon-to-be-published article in EdVotes.

I will look forward to hearing which states have the model legislation offered, let alone voted on.


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