North Dakota Becomes Fifth Merged NEA/AFT State Affiliate

February 4, 2013

1) North Dakota Becomes Fifth Merged NEA/AFT State Affiliate. The representative bodies of the North Dakota Education Association and the North Dakota Public Employees Association formally approved a merger of the two unions over the weekend. The new organization, named North Dakota United, will begin operations in September.

NDU will join teachers’ unions in Minnesota, Florida, Montana and New York as merged state affiliates of both the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers. About 650,000 members belong to both national unions. Wisconsin is also on the road to merger.

NDEA represents about 7,500 education employees and 1,500 retirees. NDPEA represents just about every other public sector employee, from custodians and higher education faculty to nurses and wildlife specialists. Their combined membership will be about 10,000. There are only 20,000 union members in all of North Dakota.

The decision will inevitably raise questions once again about the prospects of a national merger. Certainly having so many merged state affiliates might make the idea more appealing than it has been in the past. However, the five merged states, plus Wisconsin, were largely in favor of national merger when it came to a vote back in 1998. There probably won’t be any renewed momentum to take up that banner again until a previously anti-merger affiliate switches sides.

The only state where that scenario is plausible is Michigan – not because the Michigan Education Association and AFT Michigan have suddenly developed a deep affection for each other – but because the new right-to-work law might make the previously unthinkable seem thinkable. It happened on a smaller scale in New York when the anti-merger Buffalo Teachers Federation fell into line after threatening to go independent, and is now by all accounts content within New York State United Teachers.

It would take such a weakening of the anti-merger states, plus the diluted reasons for past opposition (such as AFL-CIO affiliation), plus renewed energy at the national level from the heir apparent to the NEA presidency, Lily Eskelsen, to gather the two-thirds secret ballot majority to make it happen. Those are still big hurdles to leap.

In the meantime, we will continue to watch for signs of external pressures pushing other NEA and AFT affiliates together, since internal momentum seems lacking.

2)  Last Week’s Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics from January 29-February 4:

*  Greenhouse Gas. I’m afraid the silver linings the New York Times sees in the union membership numbers are just tinsel.

CTA Behind the Media Scenes. This newspaper story is union pre-approved.

Another Union Health Trust About to Go “Belly Up.” It spends more money than it brings in. Who could predict something like that would be a problem?

Union “Benefits Review” Requires Birth Certificates, Tax Returns. Sit through a sales pitch or lose your health insurance.

Palm Reader. Listen to the hand.

3) Quote of the Week. “We’re trying to find out who’s in the buildings and how many people are in the buildings, for the point of organizing.” – Larry Carter, president of the United Teachers New Orleans, explaining why he requested the names and contact information of teachers in 35 New Orleans charter schools. (February 4 Baton Rouge Advocate)