From guest blogger Stephen Sawchuk
If you’re on the National Mall waiting for the inaugural parade, or planning to catch it on TV from the warmth of your living rooms, keep your eyes peeled for hats, gloves, and scarves bearing the National Education Association’s logo: More than 40 NEA members will be part of a pro-labor ensemble in the parade.
Those 40 members are part of the 3.2 million-member union’s executive committee. The ensemble, which includes marchers and a float, is the only worker-oriented unit in the parade, NEA officials say. It will include members from the AFL-CIO and Change to Win, two labor coalitions, and will count about 265 officials between marchers and float.
It’s an interesting move for the NEA, which has traditionally struggled a bit with its identity as both a professional association and a labor union. Though not a member of the AFL-CIO, in 2006 the two groups struck an agreement to allow NEA members to sit on local AFL-CIO councils. Perhaps this engagement is a sign that new NEA president, Dennis Van Roekel, wants this relationship to flourish.
I checked in briefly with John I. Wilson, the organization’s executive director, about NEA’s participation in the festivities. “Oh my gosh, they got all my tickets,” he joked, when I asked how many NEA-affiliated members came to town. “It’s hard to turn down the teacher coming from California with her grandchildren.”
Between 700 and 1,000 NEA members in total attended an inauguration reception, according to Wilson, so it’s probably safe to assume that at least that many are out on the Mall right now. Over 60 NEA staff members were deployed to provide support for those members, Wilson said.