When Clare Kelly and Trisha Connolly, Evanston teachers and delegates to last summer’s National Education Association’s Representative Assembly, offered their new business item which directed NEA “to make endorsements for political candidates at the national level through direct membership vote only,” it was pretty much doomed.
Union democracy has its limits when it comes to political endorsements.
So, rather than allowing a vote, Clare and Trisha’s NBI was referred the executive committee, consisting of NEA’s nine highest-ranking officers.
“Referring to committee” is where rank and file members’ ideas go to die if the leadership isn’t happy with them.
But Clare and Trisha’s NBI was prompted by the wide-spread criticism from members – mainly Bernie supporters – of the bullshit tactics and manipulated process that NEA leaders used to ensure its endorsement of Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016.
Clare told me recently, “If elected (as a delegate) to the NEA RA, we will definitely present it again.”
On the AFT side, President Randi Weingarten has been silent this time on who the AFT will endorse, but she has not been quiet about her dislike for the progressive candidates, Bernie in particular, and their issues such as Medicare for All.
In 2020 will either the NEA or the AFT jump the gun and make an endorsement before the Democratic nominating convention as they have in the past?
One problem for the national leaders is that some state and local affiliates are not waiting and have already endorsed Sanders and Warren.
Los Angeles teachers endorsed Bernie. Massachusett’s teachers endorsed Warren, a favorite daughter.
More can be expected to do the same.
Speaking with Politico, NEA President Lily Eskelsen Garcia:
NEA PRESIDENT LILY ESKELSEN GARCÍA STOPPED BY POLITICO’S HEADQUARTERS IN ROSSLYN, VA., to talk all things 2020. She said her union — the nation’s largest, with 3 million members — needs an answer to an important question before endorsing a 2020 presidential candidate: Who can deliver?
— Teachers want to see how candidates perform in early voting contests in at least Iowa and New Hampshire before conveying their coveted blessing, she said, adding that she won’t “bring a recommendation before we see who actually can deliver votes.”
— Even so, she said, the most important thing to members is electing a new president in November and there’s not one Democratic candidate who “wouldn’t be head over heels better than Donald Trump.”
— The roundtable came as the Iowa presidential caucuses are days away and as a pack of closely grouped Democrats fight for the nomination, with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) surging in the polls in Iowa and New Hampshire.
Bernie surging, the Democratic establishment candidates in trouble, rank and file unhappiness with the endorsement process with its undemocratic endorsement manipulation lacking any transparency.
These are new conditions facing the leadership that are quite different than four, eight or twelve years ago.
The irony is that Hillary would have probably won a direct vote of the membership of both unions in 2016.
Leadership didn’t have to steal it.
But that’s the way they roll.
Correction: Clare and Trisha have informed me that although they submitted the direct vote for endorsements at the 2018 NEA RA, it was delegate Peter Henry who submitted the NBI at last year’s NEA RA.