Saturday, October 3, 2015
“We are what Democracy looks like.”
With those words, Lily Eskelsen Garcia took the reigns of the National Education Association (NEA) as President in 2014.
A little more than a year later, the NEA is set to prove those words false by endorsing a candidate for the 2016 Presidential Primaries without input from the rank and file.
Despite vocal opposition from thousands of members of the largest union in the country, the NEA Political Action Committee (PAC) Council voted to endorse Hillary Clinton.
The council of 74 educators from the organization’s political arm voted Thursday. The NEA Board of Directors is expected to make a final decision on Saturday.
Despite Garcia’s fierce rhetoric, the decision is being made by a handful of union leaders with next to no input from the more than 3 million members.
Many details of the vote, itself, are shrouded in secrecy and bad math.
Numerous sources in the NEA say the PAC council voted 82% in favor and 18% against. However, these figures are suspect. Two of the largest state delegations – California and New Jersey – abstained. The percentages being touted by PAC Council representatives do not seem to take that into account. The actual total should be somewhat closer.
When the Board of Directors votes later this week, at least 58% will be needed to give Clinton the organization’s endorsement.
However, the main body of representatives – the Representative Assembly (RA) – will be excluded from voting. The larger RA’s say is unnecessary according to NEA by-laws to give an endorsement in the primary election. However, the RA will get to vote on an endorsement in the general election when the field is narrowed to only two major candidates.
Any additional outreach to card carrying educators and other dues paying members is apparently not needed or desired.
Opposition to this much anticipate vote has been mounting. State chapters in New Jersey, Massachusetts and Vermont have come out publicly against the Clinton endorsement. However, when it came to a vote in the PAC Council, New Jersey abstained instead of voting the measure down. Moreover, the California chapter has been riddled with outspoken critics of the endorsement, yet they only pushed the state delegation to another abstention.
Ohio and Massachusetts delegations voted against it, but full tallies of the roll call vote could not immediately be determined.
Those in-favor of the endorsement claim Clinton is the most electable candidate who supports positive education policies. However, even Garcia is reported to have admitted that Bernie Sanders has better education positions.
While some opposing the endorsement clearly favor Sanders, many oppose any endorsement so early in the race before even the first Democratic debate.
Clinton and Sanders are polling neck-and-neck in the first two Democratic primary states. A Clinton endorsement could give her a much needed edge over her political rival.
Meanwhile as labor unions are attacked on all sides, it seems the biggest opponent to union Democracy may come from inside these organizations, themselves.