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N.E.A. Affiliate in Wis. Backs Union-Merger Accord

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The representative assembly of the Wisconsin Education Association Council has ratified a three-year agreement that would allow the National Education Association affiliate to explore the possibility of merging with the state affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers.

Delegates to the w.e.a.c.'s policymaking body approved the "interim merger agreement" on a voice vote April 27. The pact negotiated by leaders of the nea affiliate and the Wisconsin Federation of Teachers would represent the first such formal alliance between state affiliates of the nation's two largest teachers' unions. (See Education Week, May 1, 1991.) "This is a very small first step, which I think is a very significant first step," Richard Collins, president of the weac, said last week, "but still very small."

Joint Lobbying

Under the agreement, which must clear a number of other procedural steps before taking effect, the two organizations would combine their lobbying efforts in the state capital. Union officers also would attend meetings of the other group's board. Dennis R. Derrick, executive director of the w.f.t., said union officials were planning to create a "new entity" to conduct legislative lobbying that would begin work Nov. 1. The name of the new organization and other details of its operations must still be worked out, he said.

The agreement would not change the amount of dues paid by members of either organization.

No 'Absorption' Planned

During the three-year period of the interim pact, union officials would explore the issues involved in permanently merging the two organizations. Although the w.e.a.c., with 55,000 members, dwarfs the 8,500-member Wisconsin Federation of Teachers, Mr. Collins said any merger resulting from the ex ploratory period would not involve the larger union's "absorption" of the w.f.t.

"Each organization has its own history that has to be respected,'' Mr. Collins said. "We aren't looking at the absorbtion of the w.f.t., but at a true merger between two statewide organizations.''

"That's the only way it will work," he said.

While the impetus for the agree ment arose at the state level, Mr. Collins said, w.e.a.c. officers plan to be "in constant communication with the n.e.a. about the whole process."

Mr. Derrick said a representative from the national aft sat in on ev ery one of the negotiating sessions and reported on the progress to Albert Shanker, president of the union.

The n.e.a.'s executive committee must approve the agreement. It also must be ratified by a.f.t. members at their convention in July and by the wf.t.'s members at their convention in October.

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