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Union Leaders Urge 'No Raid' Pacts During Merger Talks

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Following a third round of national merger talks, the leaders of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers sent a joint letter to state and local union offices encouraging them to collaborate more and, while the talks are in progress, to sign "no raid'' agreements.

Keith Geiger, the president of the N.E.A., and Albert Shanker, the president of the A.F.T., are delivering on promises made last summer after the unions agreed to explore the possibility of creating one national teachers' organization, said Donna Fowler, a spokeswoman for the 830,000-member A.F.T.

The union leaders wrote the letter to affiliates after the latest talks in New York on Dec. 16 and 17.

While several state and local unions already collaborate on professional activities or lobbying state legislatures, some affiliates may still attempt to recruit each others' members, a practice known as raiding.

Mr. Geiger and Mr. Shanker "are just saying, 'Let's put things on hold right now until the talks are over,''' Ms. Fowler said.

Teams made up of several top national and state union officials have been meeting on the merger issue since September. During this time, the groups have agreed that only their presidents are authorized to discuss publicly the content of the talks. (See Education Week, Nov. 10, 1993.)

Pooling Resources?

Both presidents have indicated that they believe a merger could make teachers a more powerful force in the reform movement.

But the move--which observers agree could take years, if it happens at all--could also create one of the largest, wealthiest labor organizations in the country.

The negotiations began after the N.E.A., which has about 2.3 million members, voted at its annual meeting last summer to discuss a merger with leaders of the rival union and to reconsider the N.E.A.'s 1976 policy barring its members from affiliating with the A.F.L.-C.I.O., to which the A.F.T. belongs. (See Education Week, July 14, 1993.)

Nearly all of the N.E.A.'s members are educators; the A.F.T. represents teaching staff, health-care professionals, and state and municipal employees.

In a statement made after the meeting last month, Mr. Geiger said, "The seriousness of the problems facing our society, and especially those that impact our youngest citizens, means that we must find more and better ways to work together to address them.''

The next round of talks was set for Washington last weekend.

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