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Unions Hold 2nd Round of Merger Talks

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WASHINGTON--The American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association held a second round of meetings here last week to discuss a possible merger.

The first round of talks, held in September, was a "get acquainted'' session between negotiating teams for the two unions, according to a union official who is close to the talks.

The latest round, held Nov. 1-2, involved a discussion of the "structure, governance, and operations'' of each union, according to a joint news release.

"I think what they did this time was spend a lot of time laying all that on the ground in detail so they could determine what would need to be changed and what could be kept the same,'' the official said. "We have very different structures, and they are quite complex.''

The unions have agreed that only their presidents--Albert Shanker of the A.F.T. and Keith B. Geiger of the N.E.A.--are authorized to discuss the merger talks publicly.

"We want to find ways to work together, along with parents and other concerned citizens, to get kids ready to learn and to provide them with an education that will lead them to a productive future,'' Mr. Geiger said in the joint release.

The N.E.A., with 2.3 million members, voted at its annual convention last summer to begin merger talks with the A.F.T., which has 830,000 members. (See Education Week, July 14, 1993.)

The unions are considering merging to become a more powerful player in the education-reform movement, the two presidents said.

Obstacles Remain

Both presidents called the latest meeting "honest and thorough,'' although others close to the talks said the negotiating teams have not yet broached any of the major issues that could be obstacles to the merger.

Those issues include the N.E.A.'s traditional resistance to affiliating with the A.F.L.-C.I.O., to which the A.F.T. belongs, and the A.F.T.'s policy of unlimited terms for officers, which differs from the N.E.A.'s term limits.

The unions have set further talks for Nov. 15-16 here and for Dec. 16-17 in New York City.

Besides Mr. Shanker, the A.F.T.'s negotiating team includes: Edward J. McElroy, the secretary-treasurer of the union; Philip Kugler, the assistant to the president for organization and field services; Sandra Feldman, the president of the United Federation of Teachers in New York City; Thomas Y. Hobart, the president of the New York State United Teachers; Nathaniel LaCour, the president of United Teachers of New Orleans; and Jacqueline B. Vaughn, the president of the Chicago Teachers Union.

In addition to Mr. Geiger, the N.E.A.'s team includes: Don Cameron, the union's executive director; Evelyn Temple, the assistant executive director; Jeff Wright, the president of the Florida Teaching Profession/N.E.A.; Linda Day, the president of the Louisiana Association of Educators; Ernest Therrien, an N.E.A. board member from Massachusetts; and Sybil Connally, a board member from Illinois.

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