THE LESSONS OF MERGER

4/15/08

            Itís been almost two years since NEA/ New York 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/ New York , 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 New York , Florida , Minnesota , Montana , Los Angeles and San Francisco 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 neaftmerger@gmail.com.

 

return to pct homepage