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Merger Creates New International Teachers' Group

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Teachers and other education employees from more than 120 nations met last week in Stockholm to create a worldwide organization that will advocate for quality education and free teachers' unions.

The new organization--Education International--was formed by merging the International Federation of Free Teachers Unions and the World Confederation of Organizations in the Teaching Profession.

The American Federation of Teachers had been affiliated with the international federation, whose primary emphasis was free trade unionism. Albert Shanker, the A.F.T. president, also served as president of the group.

The National Education Association was affiliated with the world confederation, which stressed professional issues. Mary Hatwood Futrell, the N.E.A.'s immediate past president, was the confederation's president.

Ms. Futrell also will be the first president of Education International.

The group brings together 240 national educator unions and professional associations from countries around the globe, representing more than 20 million school, college, and university faculty and staff members.

David Dorn, the A.F.T.'s director of international affairs, said the new organization will have a strong trade-union orientation, but also will focus on education issues.

It will work, for example, to combat the "worldwide phenomenon'' of privatizing education, Mr. Dorn said.

In remarks in Stockholm, Ms. Futrell pledged that the group will work to "repel the frontal assaults that have been leveled against teacher trade unions.''

She noted that in recent years, many trade union leaders have been tortured and murdered by repressive regimes.

Fred Van Leeuwen, the organization's secretary-general, told the gathering that the new group will strive to help teachers take a leadership role in the education-reform movement and to define effective education strategies to combat "racism, anti-Semitism, and xenophobia.''

Keith B. Geiger, the president of the N.E.A., led a 76-member delegation of association members to the meeting. He will sit on Education International's executive board. So will Mr. Shanker, who has the title of founding president.

Spokesmen for the two unions said the international merger was unrelated to any possible merger of the N.E.A. and A.F.T.

The new group will have headquarters in Brussels.

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