LESSONS OF MERGER
Itís been almost two years since NEA/
and NYSUT were merged. That merger
has been implemented so flawlessly and has been so universally accepted that
itís hard for those who didnít participate in the countless merger battles
to understand why it took over twenty years to effect.
In 1982 when delegates from our local union (most of whom were newly
elected officers) brought a resolution to the NEA/New York convention calling on
their state union to reach out and work to build coalitions with other
organizations interested in public education, they expected to meet stiff
opposition and found it from those who saw it for what it was, a cosmetic way
to begin to discuss bringing the two state unions together. So
much time, money and energy had been spent over the years to define each other
as bitter enemies that the thought of just sitting down to talk about what we
might work on together was seen as a revolutionary thought, even though an
outsider would have been left to wonder why two organizations with such common
agendas were trying to destroy each other. While
there are some who look nostalgically to NEA/
, I know no one who does not believe that the merger has benefited the
membership of both organizations to have changed New York State United Teachers
from a dream to a powerful political reality.
What NEA and AFT members in
have learned about the benefits of merger must be put to the service of
building a national merger. These
state and city unions need to spread the word that the challenges to public
education require us to end once and for all the fratricidal struggles that
unfortunately still go on in too many places and dedicate all of our financial
and human resources to defeating the
enemies of public education instead of each other.
Having seen the power that comes from speaking with one voice on the
state level, those of us in merged states need to lead the way to a national
merger, building it from the ground up, state by state.
We need to offer our colleagues a vision of what we might accomplish in
an education union of almost five million members with political activists in
ever congressional district in the nation. We
need to talk to them about working together on an agenda to rebuild public
confidence in our schools by leading a serious reform effort rather than what
passes for reform these days.
Toward that end, I and some others in NYSUT have formed the Merger Caucus.
We hope to reach out to leaders in merged states and other pro-merger
leaders to begin the process of spreading the good word about merger to our
brothers and sisters in the NEA and AFT. With
new leadership about to be elected in both the NEA and AFT, we believe this is
an opportune moment to restart the dialogue on a national merger, to teach the
lessons of merger. We have arranged
for meeting space at the upcoming NEA convention in July and look forward to
meeting those who would like to find out more about uniting all of the education
unions of our country. In the
meantime, the Merger Caucus can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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