Lily are you Listening?
By: Melissa Tomlinson, Asst. General Manager BATs, NJ BAT
There is a lot of controversy going on around the idea that NEA will hand out an early endorsement, specifically rumored to be in favor of Hillary Clinton. I understand the pressure. After all, Randi Weingarten has already announced the AFT endorsement of HRC, even before the deadline to file as a primary candidate.
So, what is at stake? AFT has garnered a position of favor by putting themselves in a positive position with the possible Democratic primary victor. We recognize that HRC is well known and are aware that many people that have no concerns about the state of public education will be voting in this country. Suppose then, that she is the victor. AFT will be in a key position to possibly effect HRC's educational platform as well as possible future educational policy, including the appointment of the Commissioner of Education.
This puts tremendous pressure on Lily Eskelsen-Garcia. Should she also throw the NEA hat into the ring and support HRC, to attempt to position NEA as close as AFT has managed to?
There is one small issue standing in the way. NEA membership does not seem to agree with the idea of an early endorsement, as evidenced by the #NoEarlyEndorsement campaign that is currently taking place. New Jersey Education Association and the president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association has announced that she will listen to the voices of the members and also submit a vote of no endorsement.
Why should this worry NEA?
If NEA does not endorse HRC and 'caves' to the voices of the members, there is the danger that NEA will seem to be in a position of weakness. People will think that the president was not able to corral the members into following along under the guidance of national leadership.
Yet – this, in fact, is not a true view of the situation.
At this time NEA should listen even more to the voices of the membership. They should be re-asserting themselves as the largest democratic body within the country. NEA has fought against the joining of AFT with NEA at the annual Representative Assembly; and this would be the perfect opportunity to differentiate themselves from AFT.
It is a badge of strength that our members are debating this fact. We have become informed about the candidates and about the processes of the union. We are making our voices heard.
In return, we are strengthening our union from within as we build our connections with one another and work to guide the union and make it strong enough to fight against the attacks of corporate education reform. Our leadership will rise to the top as we raise our collective voices... when they listen.