Barring an unforeseen pitfall, Wisconsin will become the sixth state to sport a merged teachers’ union affiliate of the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers, joining Florida, Minnesota, Montana, New York and North Dakota.
The Wisconsin Education Association Council formally requested permission from NEA to proceed with a merger with AFT-Wisconsin. The two unions will draw up governance documents for the new merged organization and plan to present them to the membership next month. It is highly likely the final authorization will occur in Green Bay the last weekend of April 2014, where and when both unions will be holding their spring conventions.
The two unions are a philosophical match, and their respective governance structures should be easy to reconcile, but finances might cause some hardships. WEAC collected $19.5 million in dues while AFT-Wisconsin collected $2 million. But AFT-W slashed spending and finished 2012 with a small surplus, while WEAC ran a $4.3 million deficit. Staff contracts usually have provisions banning layoffs in the event of merger, so further reductions will be difficult.
On the plus side, both national unions will be able to claim increased membership totals without recruiting a single additional worker.
It’s unclear if this will have any effect on the labor or political scene in Wisconsin. It would be natural to view this as momentum toward a national merger, if the last NEA convention debate on the issue hadn’t disposed of it for the near future.