March 4, 2013
1) 3,000 Hawaii Faculty Leave NEA. In a move not seen since the 1970s, a direct affiliate of the National Education Association left the organization and became independent.
The University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA), representing some 3,000 faculty members and other employees of the UH system, disaffiliated from NEA by a narrow 13-10 vote of its board of directors on February 23. UHPA is completely separate from the Hawaii State Teachers Association, NEA’s K-12 affiliate in the state. HSTA is unaffected by the vote.
The split is the result of chronic differences over money, support and communications, not only between UHPA and NEA, but between UHPA and HSTA, who often do not see eye-to-eye on union issues. In a February 2012 memo, UHPA executive director J.N. Musto laid out the arguments for disaffiliation that centered on value added for money spent.
“The NEA does not provide UHPA with any information, support, assistance, access to elected officials, benefits, or programs that the organization is not able to provide itself either at the same, or less, cost to UHPA,” wrote Musto, noting that over its history, UHPA had sent $2.9 million more to NEA than it had received in grants and services.
Support for disaffiliation grew to the point that NEA president Dennis Van Roekel visited UHPA in June 2012 to attempt to dissuade the board from pursuing it further. I’ll have more information on that meeting later this week. Following Van Roekel’s visit, UHPA convened a task force to make recommendations on disaffiliation. The committee did not reach a consensus, but did agree to poll the members.
Respondents favored a continuation of the NEA relationship, but at numbers just short of a majority. About 49% favored affiliation, 35% opposed, and 15% had no preference. The UHPA by-laws grant affiliation powers to the board of directors, so the disaffiliation vote is final, barring some extraordinary occurrence.
With sentiment so evenly split, NEA may still hold out hopes of reversing the decision, though it will definitely want to avoid additional internal strife over the issue. The disaffiliation does not go into effect until September 2013.
UHPA will net a quarter-million dollars annually by retaining the dues formerly sent to NEA, and NEA will see a corresponding loss of revenue, although the blow to the national union is more psychological than financial, amid the membership losses sustained over the past few years.
2) Intercepts. EIA’s blog, Intercepts, covered these topics since February 12:
* Even NEA Dues Cut Will Result in Dues Hike. The dodge of the “special assessment.”
* Union Treasurer Sentenced to Two Years for $433,784 Theft. Lots of questions go unanswered.
* Dissected Nurses’ Union Affiliates With AFT. Shifting alliances.
* Tower for Red Ink? Miami union’s way out of debt?
* What Do You Do With a Closed School? Buildings not really suited for anything else.
3) Quote of the Week. “When you say things like ‘we were railroaded, we were lied to’ by everybody from the governor to the janitor, those are statements of weakness, not strength. This was an awful loss for AEA in about every way it could be.” – Alabama Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham), describing the effect of the Alabama Accountability Act on the Alabama Education Association. (March 3 Birmingham News)