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August 7, 2008

            In the TeacherTalk for April 18, 2008 , I announced the creation of the NEAFT Merger Caucus.  When I wrote that column, I had written to the leaders of all of the merged affiliates of the National Education Association (NEA) and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) to announce a meeting on the 3rd of July at the NEA Convention in Washington .  What, if any, response I would get, I couldnt imagine, there having been no discussion of a national merger by either national union since the creation of the NEAFT Partnership Agreement, an essentially cosmetic attempt to camouflage the stunning defeat handed to then NEA President Bob Chase in 1998 by the NEA Convention that spoke a resounding NO to his agreement with the AFT to merge the two unions.  The conventional wisdom of those who had talked to me about this project was that hardly anyone would come.  They had me convinced, if not a bit depressed, that no one would be interested to see if the two unions could be put together from the ground up.  

            How exhilarating it was to learn that not only are there numbers of union leaders who believe deeply in the benefits to accrue from a merger of the NEA and AFT but are also willing to work to make a merger happen.  Im delighted to report that the NEAFT Merger Caucus is off to an astonishing start.    In literally a matter of weeks, we have reached out to leaders in both the NEA and AFT, held a series of meetings at the national conventions of each, selected a steering committee of myself, Gregg Solkovitz  of United Teachers of Los Ageles, Ken Tray of United  Educators of San Francisco, and Jeff Greenfield  of the MEA-MFT, the Montana merged state affiliate.  We have established a dues structure and have close to 100 dues paying members plus a longer e-mail list of those who took the time and trouble to come to a meeting and express an interest.  Weve elected Paul Pecorale of Patchogue-Medford as our treasurer and have the beginnings of a webpage (  We will shortly be publishing an e-newsletter, conceived as a vehicle for spreading the overwhelmingly positive experiences of the state and local affiliates that have already merged.  Not a bad start for an organization that got off the ground in the first week of June.  

            We have begun to develop plans to further our outreach to local leaders throughout the country.  We aim to be a presence at as many meetings held by the NEA and AFT as possible, looking for opportunities to engage leaders closest to our membership about the potentially huge benefit of having one union, four million strong, with one powerful voice speaking to the issues surrounding public education.  Compared to what the achievement of that goal would mean for the millions of public school employees, the needs of national leaders, national union bureaucracies, seemingly important philosophical differences and past enmities all pale.   What is clearly more important is doing an even better job representing our members.  We can do that, more powerfully and efficiently by harnessing the best of the NEA and AFT into an organization with a coherent vision of how to raise the academic standards and achievement of our public schools and the muscle of four million members working together to achieve that vision.

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