After years of battling each other, the Minnesota unions "just decided we had bigger fish to fry,'' Peterson says. Already, the two hold joint conferences, pool their lobbying efforts, and have agreed not to seek negotiating rights held by the other. Leaders of the groups meet together monthly.
This summer, those leaders expect "to get down to the nitty-gritty'' of how a unified organization would operate, Peterson says. "The leadership realized the importance of this and put aside their egos.''
If the deal comes through, the single organization would be unlike any other teachers' union in the country. It would maintain ties to both national unions, and membership dues would be split between the two. Whatever happens, Peterson notes, the unions "have gone too far to look back.''
The Minnesota merger discussions were given momentum by similar
talks at the national level between the NEA and the AFT. Official
merger negotiations between the two unions broke off last year [See
"Current Events,'' February], but both have expressed a willingness to
return to the bargaining table.