An Illinois member of the NEA board of directors wrote and suggested that I was creating disunity in the IEA because of my criticisms of their handling of the pension issue. He asked that I not post his comments and, as always, I will adhere to his wishes.
But I want to share my response.
I think that your suggestion that I am the cause of disunity is grossly unfair.
That there are differences in our union is an objective fact. Some wish to remain quiet about those differences. I don’t. To be unified around a wrong set of tactics and a wrong strategy does no service to our members nor to the students we teach.
We were too unified when Audrey Soglin, Ken Swanson and others in leadership (you perhaps?) tried to silence criticism of our support for Senate Bill 7. The local that I was president of was a lone voice in opposition to Senate Bill 7 at the start. But now there are others who see what it is. There will be more. Should we have remained silent in pursuit of the cause of unity within the union?
Nobody can justly challenge my loyalty to the IEA and to the cause of teacher unionism. My resume is there for all to see. But my loyalty to my union does not extend to blind loyalty to leaders who, frankly, are unknown to most of the 130,000 IEA members.
I support the main thrust of the We Are One coalition in defense of the pension protection clause.
I disagree with them on offering up any more member contributions.
I disagree on the tactics, which have left out most of the rank and file membership of our Association.
I think we rely too much on lobbyists and lawyers and not enough on activating members.
I think we call compromises victories. We all make compromises. But we should call them what they are.
I think the leadership is heavy-handed and undemocratic in the way they go after those who disagree with them.
Should all that be kept quiet in the cause of unity?
Should our little Park Ridge local have been quiet about Senate Bill 7. We filled two buses on Lobby Day and our members refused union directives to lobby for SB7. They were courageous. Heroes.
Should I not have been the one who posted the video tape of Jonah Edelman on my blog because it was an embarrassment to our leadership?
To be called passionate is often a way to marginalize a person. It suggests that they are not being objective and are basing themselves on emotions and not facts.
But almost a million readers of my blog visit there because they find it a reliable source of information and facts.
I opposed Ken Swanson when he called for a change in our lobbying position on pensions at the RA. I believe it gave permission to the legislature to create a two-tier pension system. I lost that vote. Should I have been for unity or for the young teachers who now have lost benefits. I could only choose one or the other.
You suggest I am looking at things as a retiree and ignoring the views of the active teachers. I was not a retiree then. I have only been a retiree since June.
Unity is created when differences are allowed to be expressed. The silencing of minority views will always end up exploding like a blister.