Why didn’t Arne make NEA’s worst of 2014 list?


This is the time of year when we get all the best and worst of the year lists.

The other day I received one from my National Education Association.

2014’s best and worst players in education.

The NEA gave an apple to Susan Bowles. She is a Florida kindergarten teacher who made a stink about giving a bunch of high stakes test to her kindergarten students.

Right on Susan Bowles!

The best also included teachers in Ferguson, Missouri.

No argument there. I can imagine being a teacher in a town with tear gas in the air and tanks on the street.

Even the onions – who the NEA called the worst of the year – made sense.

It included the Koch brothers, Campbell Brown, high steaks testing zealots and and my old friends from Democrats for Education Reform.

Just to remind you, DFER director Joe Williams once promised to kick my ass.

I would agree about giving him an onion.

The NEA also included a list of anti-education governors.

Illinois’ Pat Quinn was not on the list even though he was a major teacher pension thief. But the IEA endorsed him for governor anyway. So I’m not entirely surprised that the NEA looked the other way when they made their list of bad governors.

But the big surprise was the name that was missing from the NEA’s worst list.

Because I distinctly remember the vote at the Representative Assembly by the members of the NEA back in July.

We were in Denver.

We voted that Education Secretary Arne Duncan should resign.

You may have heard about it.

It was in all the papers.

So, why didn’t he make the NEA worst of the year?

I’m always optimistic.


National Association President Lily Eskelsen Garcia and me at the NEA RA in Denver.

The new school year has started.

The third without me. How have they survived?

For me, the start of a new school year was a moment for optimism.

It is like the optimism I felt leaving this year’s Representative Assembly of the National Education Association in Denver last July.

We had just passed a stinging rebuke of the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan.

The NEA leadership had proposed, and we had passed, a New Business Item calling for an end to the constant, pervasive testing and the misuse of testing scores for teacher evaluation.

We had elected three women of color to head our union, the nation’s largest.

While I was critical of the protective wall that the NEA leadership had built around the Common Core, I choose to think that this reflected the perspective of the former NEA President, Dennis Van Roekel. Van Roekel was never willing to directly challenge the Democratic Party leadership on education issues. Although Eskelsen served with Dennis, you never really thought they were entirely on the same page. It reminded me of the relationship that Reg Weaver had with Bob Chase when Reg was NEA vice-president under Chase.

Chase was a go-along kind of guy. He advocated something he called “New Unionism,” which sounded suspicious to many of us.

Weaver was a fighter.

It was only when Weaver won election as NEA president (while Bush II was President) that the tone and substance of NEA leadership changed.

Eskelsen has now taken the helm of our three million plus union.

In the months since the RA, dozens of people have asked me about her. “I hear she is pretty good,” a union friend said to me just the other day at a Labor Day barbecue. It was more of a question than a statement.

“We know what is at stake and it is why we are who we are. It is why we are fearless and why we will not be silent when people who for their own profit and political posture subvert words like ‘reform’ or ‘accountability’,’ she told the RA after her election.

Leadership matters and I am always optimistic.


NEA and AFSE need to settle this thing.

I left the NEA Representative Assembly in Denver with good feelings. We passed a strong statement on the misuse of testing. We called for the firing of Education Secretary Arne Duncan. We caused heartburn for union-hating centrist Democrats and public school-hating Republicans. We elected three strong women of color to head our union.

So, it is more than a little troubling that members of the NEA Staff Union – employees of the NEA – can’t get a contract.

I strongly believe that collective bargaining works. Regardless of the issues being bargained, an agreement can be reached if both sides want one.

Our new leadership should direct NEA Executive Director John Stocks to do whatever he can to reach a settlement that is fair and equitable to both sides.

This from the NFSE:

NEA Staff Union Urges Management to End the Hypocrisy

Bullying, intimidation and anti-union tactics used against employees

(Washington, D.C.)— Despite multiple attempts to reach a settlement with management, National Education Association (NEA) employees continue to work without a contract. Meanwhile, NEA executive director John Stocks hasn’t stopped his attacks on the very workers who have helped slow the membership decline over the last year. Contract negotiations, which began on May 13th, have stalled as managers refuse to include anti-bullying language and diminish workers’ rights. Association of Field Service Employees (AFSE) President Sue Chase, which represents NEA’s national field organizers, issued the following statement:

“Over the last year, we have done our best to work collaboratively with new management to meet the goals of the organization. Unfortunately, we cannot seem to break through the new culture—one that rewards secrecy and divisiveness, instead of respect and cooperation. Mr. Stocks’ management team issued their “last, best, and final offer” last week even while negotiators were making progress at the table.

We are no strangers to this type of hostility.  The truth is, we come across it every day when we’re on the front lines, supporting and fighting for NEA members.  What we have witnessed is shocking: just like “so-called” reformers who want to rid public schools of skilled and experienced educators, unfortunately it seems NEA has the same vision for its field staff.

“Never before has AFSE worked this long without a contract, or has management been so antagonistic.  When we entered this bargain we had hoped that Mr. Stocks—who was recently named chair of the Democracy Alliance—would support AFSE employees.  After all, we have travelled the country, working tirelessly over the years to help NEA empower its leaders and grow the organization.

“We are dismayed by the reality. We don’t think it’s too much to ask that a social justice champion like Mr. Stocks honor the employees and the members of the organization by encouraging his management team to end bullying and support basic union values.

It is our sincere desire that when we return to the bargaining table with the federal mediator on July 28th that we will be able to settle a contract which supports the staff who work to support the everyday working heroes in America’s schools, colleges, and universities. Labor-management collaboration is in the best interest of all concerned.”


# # #



CONTACT: Valerie Wilk, (703) 598-0427, valeriewilk@mac.com

Facebook: Association of Field Service Employees-AFSE

Twitter: @AfseNea



Since 1973, the Association of Field Service Employees (AFSE) union representing field service employees of the National Education Association has been working to protect the rights and improve the working conditions of those NEA staff who advocate for NEA members in the field.


Staff at largest labor union fight to win a fair contract. First time in history union management refuses to extend contract.


The Association of Field Service Employees outside the NEA RA in Denver.

(Washington, D.C.)—For months staff members at the nation’s largest union–the National Education Association–have been trying to negotiate a fair contract with their employer.  Ironically, the very same employees who work on-the-ground to assist NEA teachers and education support professionals secure fair working conditions, have now been working without a contract for nearly a month.  President of the union representing these employees, Sue Chase, issued the following statement:

“We have been at the bargaining table for months with NEA’s top management, trying to negotiate a contract for our employees that will allow us to adequately fight for and protect NEA’s members and the children they serve.  We would like nothing more than to be able to show up to work, and go into battle for public education, free from distraction and fear in our own workplace.

“In public, NEA’s executive director John Stocks delivers passionate and fiery speeches about social justice unionism and activism.  In private, however, his rhetoric does not match his actions.  Mr. Stocks and and his spokespeople continue to say that they “support collective bargaining.”  But he knows well that supporting the process is not synonymous with supporting union values.

“Throughout this process we have tried to negotiate a contract which restores dignity to our employees, recognizes our professionalism and demands respect for the work that we do.  Instead we have found ourselves having to defend basic union values: we can’t even get Mr. Stocks to consider language that protects NEA staff from bullying.

“In a recent speech, Mr. Stocks said that NEA is prepared to play the ‘long game’ to defend against attacks from anti-union forces like the Koch brothers, and that ‘the power lies dormant within us until someone tramples on our core values.’

“On this playing field, no one knows the game better than NEA’s field staff. But how can Mr. Stocks possibly expect us to unleash our power if he doesn’t consider his own staff as part of his team, doesn’t give us the resources we need to win the game and demonstrates that when it comes to union values, he may not really be on our side?

“We go into battle for NEA’s members, and fight for rights which aren’t even guaranteed for us.  If you want the community to treat NEA members with respect and dignity, and to recognize their professionalism, then you must also live these values.  It is not enough for Mr. Stocks to say he believes in collective bargaining, he must demonstrate that he believes in union values, too.

“We would like nothing more than to get in the game for public education–our shared cause is too great to be stalled by these types of distractions.  It is hard to win the game when our own coach isn’t rooting for us, and is, in fact, undermining our ability to be strong advocates.

“We hope Mr. Stocks reconsiders the plays in his handbook as we move forward in negotiations. The attacks on NEA’s members and the children they serve are real, and we don’t have time to play any more games.”

# # #


CONTACT: Valerie Wilk, (703) 598-0427, valeriewilk@mac.com

Facebook: Association of Field Service Employees-AFSE

Twitter: @AfseNea



Since 1973, the Association of Field Service Employees (AFSE) union representing field service employees of the National Education Association has been working to protect the rights and improve the working conditions of those NEA staff who advocate for NEA members in the field.


Home from the NEA RA. Listening to the mountains, the veterans and the voices in my head.


Our friend Jean shared the secret of hiking up the two-mile path to Emerald Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.

And the two miles back down.

We needed to get there early before the crowds. We needed to hike without hearing people’s voices.

We needed to listen to the Park.

We would also hear the voices in our own heads

My head almost exploded with thoughts and ideas.

I had no trouble hearing the Gray Jays that battled each other for a spot on an old tree limb just over my head while I was resting on a bolder 10,000 feet above sea level.

A few days earlier I was sitting in a meeting of 10,000 NEA union members in – what Jean calls the flatlands – Denver.

It was my second year sitting with the retirees at the NEA RA.

I am a two-year retiree, sitting with these veteran teachers who have no trouble remembering back to the days of purposely segregated teacher unions and no collective bargaining rights.

It gave me a sense of perspective.

And it makes me feel that the arc of the moral universe bends towards justice – but too slowly.

Back in the day these veteran teachers challenged racism and exclusion with an uncompromising vision, a demand and a plan.

They get mad when I mention their names in these posts. But they are not shy about sharing what they know.

They do not spare me if they think I get off track. I may not agree with them.

But I keep that to myself.

Just as I would do with any of the great teachers I had and respected as a student.

They are still great teachers, retired or not.

So I act with humility.

Because whether I am a young retiree or not, I know enough when to talk back and when keep it to myself.

Over the next few days I will be talking back.

I will be sharing some of my thoughts about the NEA RA with you.

NEA staff employees are picketing the RA this morning.


For those of us who believe in collective bargaining it is disturbing the find NEA employees this morning on a informational picket line in front of the Denver convention center with signs asking for NEA management to bargain fairly.


But part of the process.

Although the NEA is a union, it hires people. And those people have collective bargaining representation through the Association of Field Service Employees (AFSE-NSO). These are men and women have a boss. He is John Stocks, NEA Executive Director. Stocks, but the way, has a reputation for being more than a little tight-fisted with our money.

I heard plenty of complaints about the problems with our NEA Retired budget  and the way in which it has been handled over the past couple of years by Stocks.

The AFSE contract expired last May.

They should be at the table getting it settled. No NEA member expects Stocks to say yes to everything AFSE asks for. No union member would expect NEA staff to just take whatever they are offered.

The staff people I talked to claim members have been bullied and transferred by management without explanation during the bargaining.

Like any contract I have ever bargained, the issues involve compensation and healthcare.

AFSE says that Stocks has refused to extend the contract during bargaining and has notified them that management intends to comply only with mandatory subjects of bargaining. They say he has threatened to abolish union leave, payroll deduction and end joint labor-management committees until a new contract is agreed upon.

If true, it ain’t right.

That is AFSE’s side of the story.

NEA Executive Director John Stocks (jstocks@nea.org) and Jim Testerman (jtesterman@nea.org), senior director for the Center for Organizing, can explain their side of the story if they wish.

But both sides should be at the table and bargaining.

Support the people who serve the NEA staff.


– From UniteHere Local 23.

Seasons Culinary, the food service company that operates the cafeteria in the National Education Association headquarters building in Washington DC, is refusing to accept a contract that would give its workers the same benefits and protections as at other DC UNITE HERE Local 23 cafeterias.*

We recognize NEA Executive Director John Stocks for his national leadership on immigrant and workers’ rights. We also call on him to take a stand for the workers who serve the NEA staff.

SEASONS SAYS: “The Seasons/NEA staff already have benefits that are equal”

THE TRUTH: Seasons employees at NEA pay almost double what employees pay at other DC UNITE HERE Local 23 cafeterias.* Seasons employees at the NEA currently pay $102.18 per month for single insurance. At other DC UNITE HERE Local 23 cafeterias,* employees pay $53.50 for single insurance.

Please sign to send an email to the partners of Seasons Culinary to demand a fair contract now.

A list of signees will also be delivered to NEA Executive Director John Stocks.

*For Example: GSI at the Holocaust Museum cafeteria, Sodexo at the Fannie Mae cafeteria, Restaurant Associates at the US House of Reps.

NEA staff joins cafeteria workers’ picket line at DC NEA headquarters.


– report/photo by Chris Garlock

“If I had a little bit more money I could pay the bills and save some for my boys,” said Jessica Reyes. “I want them to go to college and not have to work a job like mine.”

Reyes works in the cafeteria at the National Education Association’s headquarters on 16th Street, which is operated by Culinary Seasons. Culinary was the target of a noontime picket yesterday by dozens of union members because the company has refused to match the wages and healthcare now paid at other cafeterias represented by Unite Here Local 23.

The Local 23 members were joined on the line by members of the NEA Staff Organization (NEASO). “It’s been unifying for our members to see themselves as part of the broader labor community and to help our brothers and sisters in another union,” said NEASO’s Susan Nogan.


NEA. Supreme Court decision turns back our nation’s commitment to racial equality .

 – National Education Association

WASHINGTON – April 22, 2014 – The Supreme Court of the United States today delivered its opinion in Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, rejecting a constitutional challenge to Michigan’s Proposal 2, an initiative that bans affirmative action in university admissions. The decision of the Sixth Circuit has been reversed.

The National Education Association, representing more than 3 million educators and joined by the Michigan Education Association and the Service Employees International Union, filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to affirm the lower court decision that had struck down Proposal 2 as an impermissible distortion of the political process to the detriment of affirmative action proponents. The brief argued that diversity in our educational institutions, at the K-12 and higher education level, is critical to our public schools and universities fulfilling their missions of preparing students to function as citizens of our increasingly diverse country. The brief also contended that proponents of affirmative action programs should not be disadvantaged in the political process based on their views that it is appropriate to take race into account to ensure student bodies are fully representative of all groups in our society.

The following statement can be attributed to NEA President Dennis Van Roekel:

“Today’s decision turns back our nation’s commitment to racial equality and equal treatment under the law by sanctioning separate and unequal political processes that put undue burdens on students. The Supreme Court has made it harder to advocate and, ultimately, achieve equal educational opportunity.

“Having spent 23 years in the classroom, I saw first-hand the important role diversity played in the classroom and how learning from people with different backgrounds and perspectives can benefit all students, our workforce and our country as a whole. Fostering educational diversity and greater opportunity is critical to our nation’s future in a global economy and an increasingly interconnected world.

“Sixty years after Brown v. Board of Education, we find ourselves still separate and unequal, and the fight wages on to level the uneven playing field. It’s in everyone’s interest to see that talented students from all backgrounds get a close look and a fair shot at overcoming obstacles to educational opportunity. Yet, the Supreme Court’s decision places roadblocks on the critical efforts to ensure that our public universities are places where a fair and equal exchange of ideas from a variety of perspectives and viewpoints is encouraged, not compromised.”