N.E.A., A.F.T. Affiliates Pondering Merger in California

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The California affiliate of the National Education Association has presented its American Federation of Teachers counterpart with a written proposal for melding the two state groups into one organization.

The plan, proposed last month, was the first formal merger offer in nearly two years of intermittent talks on the subject between the 170,000-member California Teachers Association, the nea affiliate, and the 30,000-member California Federation of Teachers.

Leaders from the two state organizations have scheduled a meeting for Jan. 26 to discuss the proposal, which would essentially fold the two organizations into one nea affiliate.

If a merger agreement is reached--an unlikely possibility, according to national union officals--it could lead to a cta affiliation with the afl-cio

Ed Foglia, president of the cta, said that joining forces with the California afl-cio has become a goal of his organization. It would give both teachers and labor additional political clout, he said, and would bring an end to costly turf battles between the cta and other public-sector unions.

Such an affiliation, however, would require an about-face by the nea on its longstanding policy that the union's affiliates "will not enter into a merger requiring affiliation" with the afl-cio

The aft and its state organizations are affiliated with the labor federation.

California is one of three states where affiliates of the two national teachers' unions have been engaged in merger talks over the past several years. In the two other states, Minnesota and Wisconsin, the discussions have stalled, a high-ranking2p4nea official said last week. (See Education Week, May 13, 1987.)

'No Raid' Pacts Sought

Meanwhile, talks on a different front--the possibility of limiting turf battles between the affiliates of the nea and those of three afl-cio public-sector unions--are still progressing in 15 states, according to John M. Hein, the nea's assistant executive director for affiliated services.

The three other unions are the American Federation of State,County, and Municipal Employees, the Service Employees International Union, and the International Union of Operating Engineers.

All four unions are actively engaged in efforts to organize educational-support personnel.

The afl-cio unions are prohibited under the federation's rules from seeking to win bargaining rights held by other federation affiliates. But the nea, which is the nation's largest independent union, is not restricted by such limitations.

The nea began actively organiz8ing school-support staff in the early 1980's, and in a number of places has sought to capture the bargaining rights held by the other unions.

This costly jurisdictional warfare, Mr. Hein said, had begun to "jeopardize the working relationship" the nea has enjoyed with these unions on other fronts.

Talks to limit these turf issues have been under way for as long as two years in some places, he said.

"We have a realistic possibility of reaching agreements in 15 states where there has been a history ofconflict," Mr. Hein said.

He said the talks are particularly "active" in five states, which he declined to name.

"We want to work out a national agreement," he said. "But the reality is that we can't get it nationally unless we can work it out in the states where we are having the problems now."

Under such an agreement, the unions would agree not to "raid" one another's members, but would be free to battle it out over workers who currently are not organized.

No such discussions are underel10lway between the national leadership of the nea and the aft.

Proposal Termed Unacceptable

In California, leaders of the state affiliates of the two teachers' unions say they support the idea of one strong teachers' organization in the state. But aft officials said last week that the cta proposal, while significant because the first in the state, was unacceptable.

Under the proposal, the smaller organization would essentially be folded into the nea affiliate. The cta would continue to pay per-capita dues to the aft for all current cft members for five years, at which point all affiliation with the aft would end.

In addition, the cta would ask its national organization to change, or waive, its policy on afl-cio affiliation.

"What we are looking for is an organization that has one single voice for teachers without having a two-headed monster at the national level," said Mr. Foglia of the cta "I think we have given a good-faith'' offer.

Albert Shanker, president of the aft, disagreed.

"This is not a serious proposal, it is pure public relations," Mr. Shanker said. "The aft is not about to go out of business in any state and the nea knows that."

Miles Myers, president of the cft, said he is a strong proponent of merger, but not at any cost.

"It is in our mutual interest to work toward a merged organization,'' Mr. Myers said. "But we also want to maintain our aft affiliation.''

National Leaders Disagree

But Mr. Foglia said he will be not be able to stray very far from his organization's proposal in the upcoming talks between the two state groups.

"We will be glad to talk about all of this," he said. "But I don't think I would get national support if I proposed prolonged aft affiliation. I think I would be dead in the water."

While the nea has voiced support for the idea of establishing one united organization for teachers at either the state or national level, its leaders have made it clear that all of its members would have to belong solely to the nea

Mr. Shanker, on the other hand, said his organization might support a state merger where all members of the united organization would belong to both nationals, or have the option of choosing which national they belong to. "If you really want to unite teachers, you have to work out a compromise that is acceptable to both sides," he said last week.

In the early 1970's, the New York State affiliates of the two national unions were able to forge a pact that actually unified the two state groups. Several years later, however, the membership voted to disaffiliate with the nea

Ever since that experience, the nea has been reluctant to engage in any merger talks.

Policy on A.F.L.-C.I.O.

The outcome of the cta's courtship with the afl-cio hinges on the California merger talks, Mr. Foglia said. If the talks ultimately fail, he said, it is unlikely that his group will pursue affiliation with the labor federation.

Even if the current round of talks does not result in a merger, Mr. Foglia noted, the "chances are good" that his delegation will seek "modifications" in the nea policy regarding afl- cio affiliation at the union's annual convention this summer.

"I think it will be a major topic [at the convention] just as a result of our having come this far in these discussions," he said.

Vol. 07, Issue 17

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