Disaffiliation from parent unions is not a new practice by any means, but seems to be gaining momentum. Realizing the union practice of a unified membership structure would benefit the NEA, in 1972 officials began a unification membership program whereby all state and local affiliates must affiliate with the national NEA. One example is the massive Missouri State Teachers Association (MSTA), which refused the “offer”. MSTA has since been an independent organization whose membership numbers have almost always outstripped the NEA and American Federation of Teachers (AFT) affiliates in the Show Me State. By the 1975-1975 school year all other states had adopted the unified membership structure, a union practice which greatly benefited the national NEA, allowing them to exact tribute at every level. As Mike also points out, the Blue Valley Education Association did not lose its status as exclusive representative.
Now Mike Antonucci has the story about the Blue Valley Education Association disaffiliating from the NEA in Kansas on the 74million.org.
The latest in a series of local affiliates to drop their connection to state and national unions is the Blue Valley Education Association in Kansas. It represents some 1,800 certified staff in the state’s fourth-largest school district.
BVEA cut its ties to the National Education Association and Kansas NEA in May 2018. As is their usual policy in such cases, the state and national unions created a new, competing affiliate, called Blue Valley NEA.
BVEA’s independence would have been short-lived if it had failed to maintain its status as exclusive representative for Blue Valley teachers. But the Kansas Department of Labor held a mail-in ballot election this month, and BVEA defeated Blue Valley NEA by a count of 904 to 104.
Blue Valley teachers are still free to join either union, or none, but BVEA will negotiate the next teacher contract.
Kansas NEA can ill afford the defection. The state union lost more than 12 percent of its active membership between 2012 and 2017.
Disaffiliations, once rare within NEA, are now happening more frequently. In the past six years, the union lost the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly, the Memphis-Shelby County Education Association, the Carmel Teachers Association in Indiana, the Santa Rosa Professional Educators in Florida and the 20,000-strong bargaining unit of the Clark County Education Association in Nevada.
The American Federation of Teachers has had its own disaffiliation scares but did not suffer losses because it acted swiftly to impose trusteeships over rebellious locals, a tactic NEA now appears ready to put into place.
The absence of state and national union involvement will not necessarily make things easier for school districts and policymakers. Some independent locals may be more agreeable. Some will be less so. But at least negotiations will have one less complicating factor.
It’s a new world for teachers as well. Unions with exclusive bargaining status will still have the upper hand in recruiting members, but they can no longer extract any money from nonmembers. Nonmembers are now free to both form and financially support competing unions.
For all the talk about teacher unions being revitalized by strikes and rallies, no one seems to have considered the possibility that teachers might revitalize their representation by taking control of it themselves.