Michigan NEA & AFT Talk Merger

The Michigan Education Association and AFT Michigan have been discussing a possible merger for more than a year, reports Crain’s Detroit Business.

“AFT Michigan and the Michigan Education Association are working more closely together now than at any time in our history to mutually address the challenges facing our members,” MEA President Steven Cook and AFT Michigan President David Hecker said in a joint statement to Crain’s. “As a part of that work, a group has been meeting for more than a year to discuss what a merger between our organizations would look like, but those discussions are preliminary and exploratory in nature.

“No decisions have been made by MEA or AFT Michigan members regarding whether or not a merger would or could happen, nor any of the many details that such an action would need to address.”

A merger in Michigan would be a big deal because MEA was instrumental in helping defeat the proposed national merger of NEA and AFT in 1998. Though national merger is a dead issue these days, over time the dilution of opposition could make revival of talks a viable option.

Despite their history, it isn’t very surprising that the Michigan unions would explore merger. The state’s right-to-work legislation greatly reduced their ranks, and one shrinking organization is apparently preferable to two smaller shrinking organizations.

Still, I wouldn’t start buying “Education Michigan” or “Michigan United” t-shirts just yet. You may recall that under similar circumstances the Wisconsin Education Association Council and AFT Wisconsin actually crafted a merger proposal and scheduled a vote in April 2014. The vote was postponed amid concerns about the unions’ differing dues structures. A joint committee was formed to address those issues, and it ultimately recommended that the idea be dropped. In an April 2016 interview, new WEAC president Ron Martin told WisPolitics.com that merger was “off the table.”

The Michigan unions are nowhere close to the place Wisconsin reached, and I expect any proposed merger would meet significant organized opposition within both unions.