Teachers Unions Can Join AFL-CIO; Boosts Labor after Defections
Byline: William Glanz, THE WASHINGTON TIMES
Leaders of the AFL-CIO yesterday approved a measure allowing local affiliates of the nation's largest teachers union to join the labor federation, a move to help bolster the labor movement after last year's defection of five unions.
Under the terms of the deal, the international union of the 2.8 million-member National Education Association (NEA) will remain independent of the AFL-CIO, but its local unions may apply for membership in the AFL-CIO central labor councils.
Five unions left the AFL-CIO last year to form the Change to Win Federation, a rival labor group. The split resulted in the departure of 5 million members from the AFL-CIO and the loss of about $25 million in funding.
The AFL-CIO now represents about 9 million people in 52 unions.
The decision to let local unions of the NEA join the federation came on the first day of the AFL-CIO executive council's meeting at an oceanside resort in San Diego. The move was first reported in The Washington Times two weeks ago.
AFL-CIO leaders yesterday also said they plan to spend more on their political program this year than they did during the 2002 midterm elections, when the federation spent $34 million.
NEA President Reg Weaver said the new partnership between the teachers union and the labor federation isn't a first step toward joining the AFL-CIO.
Mr. Weaver said he doesn't know how many of the NEA's 13,200 unions will decide to seek membership in the 520 central labor councils of the AFL-CIO. NEA membership in the central labor councils is significant in an election year because the councils are largely responsible for grass-roots political activity.
"We will be able to wage stronger campaigns" on issues from health care to pensions and No Child Left Behind, the law supported by President Bush to improve student achievement, AFL-CIO President John J. …