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National Teachers’ Union Will Meet in Minneapolis this Summer & Propose Change to Who Counts as a Member

The 2018 National Education Association Annual Meeting and Representative Assembly will be held in Minneapolis this summer.

NEA—the nation’s largest teachers’ union—calls its annual gathering the “world’s largest democratic deliberative assembly.” Attendees will be mostly teachers (76 percent) sent by state and local affiliates as delegates, accompanied by former educators or education support staff, as well.

The Annual Meeting will be held June 30th to July 5th (yes, over a holiday, read NEA’s reasoning here,) and the final four days of the meeting are dedicated to the Representative Assembly (RA). The RA is made up of around 8,000 delegates in charge of adopting a budget, passing resolutions, and taking action on other NEA policies, including voting by secret ballot on proposed amendments to the union’s Constitution and Bylaws. (Side note regarding secret ballot elections, the vast majority of Minnesota teachers in the classroom today have never voted in a union certification election because unions are not required to stand for re-election after being formed.)

There are six proposed Constitutional amendments for consideration this year, and the first one is particularly interesting.

First Amendment
To open NEA membership to public education allies while preserving NEA governance positions for education professionals and active equivalents. [Emphasis added]

This redefinition of who counts as a member appears to be NEA’s way of preparing to lose hundreds of thousands of members and millions of dollars should the Supreme Court rule in favor of Mark Janus in Janus v. AFSCME. Mike Antonucci believes NEA leaders plan to propose this new category not because of the few extra bucks they will get in dues revenue, but because as members, these “education allies” could finance big political action committee (PAC) money.

Labor unions can only solicit political action committee contributions from members, and are free to conduct unrestricted political communications with them. By contrast, any NEA community ally could be approached for PAC money, though I doubt NEA intends to target your average Joe.

According to Antonucci, NEA defines these “allies” as “any person who demonstrates support in advancing the cause of public education, who advocates for the mission, vision, and core values of the Association, and who is not eligible for any other membership category.” He continues:

The designation would extend NEA membership to people who are not employed, nor ever have been employed, in the field of public education. I have referred to this idea as the NEA Fan Club the three previous times it has been proposed, and defeated, by delegates. This time, however, it has the full weight of the union’s hierarchy behind it.

The charter members of the NEA Fan Club will probably be Tom Steyer, Jonathan Soros, Matt Damon, and other deep-pocketed liberals.

It is no secret NEA’s PAC (the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education) spends millions to support primarily the left side of the political spectrum, despite this political affiliation not being reflective of all its members.

Is NEA’s proposal to broaden the scope of who can have union membership a safety net for its political power? Does the union fear its members will assess its representation and find it wanting? What a summer we have before us.

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