The 138 site representatives of the Memphis-Shelby County Education Association (MSCEA) are voting this week on the question of whether to remain affiliated with the Tennessee Education Association and NEA or to go their own way. Since the local’s constitution requires affiliation, it will take a two-thirds majority of those voting to disaffiliate.
While there are many issues causing the split between MSCEA and the state union, it is hard to ignore the racial component. Memphis is one of NEA’s largest urban locals, formed by the merger of black and white teachers associations in the 1970s. The by-laws used to require the union to alternate between black and white presidents, until the practice caused some controversy in 2008. MSCEA’s membership is more than three-quarters African-American. More than 100 of the site representatives voting this week are African-American.
It bears noting that the two Alabama Education Association directors who filed suit against NEA’s trusteeship are African-American, and they are supported by Joe L. Reed, the former AEA associate executive secretary, who accuses NEA of trying to undermine the merger agreement that brought together the white and black teachers associations in Alabama back in 1969.
I had not considered it before, but now I’m wondering about the racial/ethnic composition of the Education Support Employees Association in Nevada, which might be three weeks away from losing to the Teamsters.
It could all be coincidental, but it’s a factor to which I’ll pay closer attention when examining internal union issues.