Teaching & Learning Update

AFL-CIO Divisions Unlikely to Affect Teachers’ Union

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The pullout of at least three major labor unions from the AFL-CIO is unlikely to have much effect on the American Federation of Teachers—at least in the short term, union representatives and observers say.

The 1.3 million-member AFT announced at its annual meeting late last month that it would stay with the AFL-CIO, and, in fact, AFT President Edward J. McElroy played a critical role in negotiating with leaders of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters and the other groups before they decided to split.

Alex Wohl, a spokesman for the AFT, said most of the teachers’ union locals would not see any effect. Some, however, could get a slight bump in membership from such members of the departing unions as school health-care workers, he added.

Whether the departures of the Teamsters, the Service Employees International Union, and the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union from the AFL-CIO will harm or rejuvenate the ailing labor movement was a topic debated by numerous analysts.

Could they, for example, spur the nation’s largest teachers’ union, the 2.8 million-member National Education Association, to reconsider a merger or more partnerships with the AFT? NEA members rejected a 1998 proposal to merge with the AFT, in part because of the AFL-CIO’s image as a blue-collar organization that some teachers associated with union corruption.

“My tendency is to think this is a wash for the teachers’ unions; nothing really changes,” said Mike Antonucci, the director of the Education Intelligence Agency, an Elk Grove, Calif.-based teachers’ union watchdog.

NEA President Reg Weaver agreed. “AFT is still part of the AFL-CIO, … and the AFL-CIO is still in existence,” he said. Further, he said, “I don’t think that it will hinder any kind of communicating or relationships that NEA and AFT have.”

Vol. 24, Issue 44, Page 10

Published in Print: August 10, 2005, as AFL-CIO Divisions Unlikely to Affect Teachers’ Union

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