Here is a cavalcade of links for background and commentary on the alliance between the San Diego Education Association — which is linked to the National Education Association — and the Labor Council — which is part of the AFL-CIO.

The two national groups signed a partnership agreement in 2006 that allows local affiliates of the NEA to link to local councils of the AFL-CIO, even though the two national groups are not currently affiliated. The Union-Tribune, reporting on the agreement in 2006, called it “a jolt of support for the battered umbrella labor federation.” An online Marxist journal went even further, writing, “a rainbow seemed to appear amid the gloomy clouds of disunity hanging over the U.S. labor movement.” It was widely interpreted as a first step toward a real merger that would create a “mega-union” with 4 million employees, the USA Today reported at the time of the partnership. And it has been discussed for a long time.

Why haven’t they been linked before? While the other national teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers, has already joined up with the AFL-CIO, some members of the NEA have historically considered the group more of a professional organization than a union, or something in between, Education Week explains. Its members rejected a push to join up with both the AFT and the AFL-CIO more than a decade ago. Leftist scholar Rich Gibson, who has sharply criticized the move towards a merger, described the uneasiness this way:

Many delegates wanted nothing to do with the AFL-CIO, some because they don’t want to be connected to the working class, others because they believe the AFL-CIO is too corrupt to reform, and many because they saw no reason to give up what they know they have in NEA for what they might lose with a merger.

Another union leader explained it to Education Week this way:

“Some people have got in their minds the old image of labor—the kind of [James R.] Hoffa and corruption image—and they just don’t want to be associated with that,” said Wayne Johnson, the vice president of the California Teachers Association and a supporter of the proposed merger. “It is an issue, and it is going to cost the merger agreement a lot of votes at the [NEA’s annual meeting] this summer.”

I’ll post more as I dig it up.

EMILY ALPERT

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