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National Teachers' Unions Outline Plan for Single Body

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Following are excerpts from the proposed blueprint for a merged teachers' union issued last week by leaders of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers:

Jurisdictions

The New Organization will be rooted in the commitment to improving the well-being of members and the communities they serve that characterizes both the AFT and NEA. The New Organization will be committed to helping affiliates in all jurisdictions maintain their current organizations and organize new members.

Education employees will be the core constituency, but the New Organization will also recognize that both the AFT and NEA state affiliates currently include as members professional and technical employees in state and local government and health care. These members joined us because they were attracted by the service, professionalism, and democracy the AFT and NEA traditions represent. The New Organization will consider every member a valued asset, and every working member will enjoy full membership rights and full services at every level of the union.

The negotiating teams have reached substantial agreement in defining the jurisdictions of the New Organization and in creating a structure defining the affiliates within it. Here's a summary:

  • The New Organization's core jurisdiction, education, will cover every category of employee in public education and education-related public agencies and institutions, from preschool through graduate school and lifetime learning. This core jurisdiction will also extend to employees in nonpublic schools and programs, such as Head Start, funded by public money. The education core constituency will include professionals, paraprofessionals, and education support personnel of all kinds; administrative personnel; and higher education faculty, nonteaching professionals, and support staff.
  • In addition to education employees, the New Organization's other affiliate jurisdictions will include professional and technical employees in health care and professional and technical employees in state and local government. Affiliates and active members in all jurisdictions will enjoy full rights and services at the national, state, and local levels.
  • Retirees in all three jurisdictions will have a membership category. There will also be a membership category for students and an at-large category that will be defined in the future.
  • Each of the major areas in the education jurisdiction--pre-K-12 teachers/other professionals, paraprofessionals/education support personnel, and higher education faculty and staff--will have a constituency board made up of affiliate leaders. These boards will help develop policy specific to their members' work and make recommendations to the New Organization's executive board. Constituency board chairs will be appointed by the New Organization's president, with the approval of the executive board, from the members of the leadership council (see Governance). Constituency board members will be appointed by the New Organization executive board based on the recommendations of the president.
  • Affiliates representing members in health care and state and local government will each have a council at the national level for their respective jurisdiction. Like the constituency boards, these councils will recommend policy specific to their members' concerns to the New Organization's executive board. Chairs and members will be appointed in the same way as constituency boards.
  • Recognizing the uniqueness of jurisdictions outside education, local affiliates with members in the health care and/or state and local government jurisdictions can be part of one of three state-level structures in the New Organization:

1. They can be part of a single state affiliate made up of all local affiliates in that state.

2. In states where there isn't a single state organization, they can be part of a second state affiliate that includes members in more than one jurisdiction.

3. In states where there are separate state affiliates with members in health care and/or state and local government, these affiliates, with the approval of the New Organization and in cooperation with affected affiliates, can create a state council in the appropriate jurisdiction for all local affiliates with members in that jurisdiction.

  • Affiliates in a jurisdiction that want to form a state council must have enough members and income to support the professional and clerical staff and offices necessary to provide a broad range of services to their members. They also need a statewide presence, with locals or chapters in a number of locations around the state. State councils will have to meet the same standards as state affiliates.
  • Members in health care or state and local government will be represented at the New Organization convention through their local, state affiliate, or, if they are not part of a state affiliate and their local union is not sending delegates, through their council at the national level. But, in all cases, members could only choose one of these routes to be represented.
  • In states where there are more than one state affiliate or a state affiliate and one or more state councils, an umbrella group would coordinate joint activities such as lobbying and political action.

Governance

The New Organization created by the AFT and NEA will reflect a deep commitment to democratic principles and procedures at every level. The delegates members elect to the organization's top decisionmaking authority, the convention, will constitute the world's largest democratic deliberative body.

The key governance points where AFT and NEA negotiating teams have reached conceptual agreement:

  • The New Organization's convention will be held annually. Members will elect delegates to the convention on a one-person, one-vote basis. Delegates to the convention will elect seven full-time national officers: a president, an executive vice president, four national vice presidents, and a secretary-treasurer.
  • Between conventions, the New Organization's highest governing bodies will be the executive board and the leadership council.
  • The executive board will include the seven national officers and 30 additional members elected at-large by convention delegates. This executive board will meet seven times a year.
  • The leadership council will be a broad body, with several hundred members, that will include the New Organization's officers and executive board, presidents of state affiliates, presidents of large local affiliates, representatives from constituency groups within the organization, and members elected at-large from the states. The leadership council will meet three times a year.
  • Members of the New Organization elected to either national office or to the leadership council or executive board will serve four-year terms, with everyone elected the same year.
  • The election of national officers and executive board members as well as roll-call votes at the national convention will follow the same procedure. The count will be recorded by state and local affiliate, but each individual delegate will vote by secret ballot. The vote of locals will be weighted based upon the principle of one person, one vote, with the membership voting strength of each local divided equally among the number of its delegates present at the convention.
  • The New Organization will be committed to maintain--and expand--current AFT and NEA levels of minority representation throughout leadership, governing, and staff. Built into the New Organization's constitution will be a provision that allows expansion of all governing bodies. These additional seats would help ensure adequate ethnic minority representation.
  • For an interim period after approval of the constitution, the presidents of the AFT and NEA will become the "founding presidents" of the New Organization. During this period, the NEA president will have the constitutional duties of president and the AFT president will have the constitutional duties of executive vice president. Besides the founding presidents, the interim national officers would include four national vice presidents and a secretary-treasurer. After the interim period, there will be one president, an executive vice president, four national vice presidents, and a secretary-treasurer.
  • During the interim period, in addition to the national officers, the executive board will number 15 members designated by the AFT and 15 members designated by NEA. The election of these officers will be part of the vote on the formal unity agreement that goes before the AFT Convention and the NEA Representative Assembly. These individuals will take office once the unity agreement is approved.
  • Following the second election after the end of the interim period, delegates to the annual convention will decide whether to limit officers to three four-year terms and whether the organization should hold its conventions every two years. Delegates will make this decision in the same vote by a simple majority.

Affiliates

Support for state and local affiliates will be a hallmark of the New Organization. States and locals will provide most of the basic services to members and will receive substantial support from the National Organization. This support will cover a wide variety of programs and services and will help strengthen local autonomy.

We have agreed on a number of principles that will govern the relationship between the New Organization and its affiliates. Among them:

  • Autonomy for local affiliates will be a keystone of the New Organization.
  • State affiliates will have a vital role providing and coordinating services for affiliates and members.
  • The ultimate objective will be one affiliate in each state, but the New Organization will encourage, not require, such a structure. The National Organization will work to create an atmosphere to encourage unity at all levels.
  • The New Organization will develop guidelines for cooperation for separate state affiliates within a state.
  • All state unity agreements will be subject to national approval.
  • State unity agreements will be considered for approval once the AFT Convention and NEA Representative Assembly approve principles of unity.

The New Organization will help both state and local affiliates provide new levels of service and new programs to members. Our goal will be a standard level of professional services to all members, through state or local staff and affiliate release-time officers. This support will help local and state affiliates build on their current level of service and break new ground to improve the quality of services they deliver.

AFL-CIO Affiliation

Today, public education--the route to prosperity for millions of American families and a cornerstone of our democracy--is being challenged as never before. At the same time, real individual incomes are falling and inequality is rising, access to health care is increasingly narrowed, and public services are constantly squeezed. As a result, neither the men nor women who work in education nor the families of our students can offer our nation's children the future they deserve. A strong, vital, renewed labor movement would be a powerful ally of public education that could set America back on course. As an AFL-CIO affiliate, the New Organization could help build the renewed labor movement America needs.

The key points on AFL-CIO affiliation where the AFT and NEA negotiating teams have reached conceptual agreement:

  • The New Organization will be a national affiliate of the AFL-CIO, and the New Organization's constitution will recognize the building of a strong labor movement--at the national, state, and local levels--as a primary organizational objective. The ultimate goal will be full affiliation with the AFL-CIO at all levels, and the officers of the New Organization will actively support this goal.
  • State affiliates of the New Organization will determine their own relationships to the AFL-CIO. A state may vote affiliation with the state AFL-CIO organization for all its local affiliates. Or, a state may vote not to affiliate with the state AFL-CIO organization, in the process remaining outside the New Organization's affiliation with the national AFL-CIO.
  • At the local level, affiliation with local AFL-CIO organizations will remain the decision of local affiliates of the New Organization. In situations where a state affiliate decides to remain outside the state AFL-CIO, individual locals could affiliate with the state AFL-CIO.
  • Affiliates of the New Organization that were affiliated with the AFL-CIO before the AFT and NEA unite will be required to maintain affiliation.
  • The New Organization's initial affiliation with the national AFL-CIO will be based on 1.4 million members. This will make the New Organization the largest single affiliate within the AFL-CIO.
  • Once state and local affiliates of the New Organization affiliate 1.4 million members with the AFL-CIO, the membership base for determining the New Organization's AFL-CIO national affiliation will increase annually by the number of members newly affiliated with the AFL-CIO.
  • The New Organization will allocate resources to educational materials and programs that encourage state and local affiliates to affiliate fully with state and local AFL-CIO bodies.

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