Close Union Vote Costly for Minnesota Teacher Union

Published August 1, 1999

Although members of the National Education Association last year decisively defeated a proposal to merge with the American Federation of Teachers, another merger-related proposal received a much better reception at this year’s Annual Representative Assembly, although it, too, failed, this time on a 49.8-50.2 vote.

The Assembly’s failure to pass the proposal has left the combined AFT-NEA teacher union in Minnesota, Education Minnesota, liable for payments to the NEA of an additional $240,000 or so per year for the next ten years.

Last year’s NEA Representative Assembly had agreed that “no state affiliate will merge until guidelines were in place.” Despite this, the NEA and AFT affiliates in Minnesota merged last September. The new organization was disqualified from NEA affiliation until officials agreed to pay the NEA full national dues for the entire merged membership, even though dues for members from the AFT were going to the AFT.

The agreement between Education Minnesota and the NEA called for payment of $2.4 million plus interest over a ten-year period. This year, Education Minnesota asked the NEA to forgive the loan. After a lengthy debate, the motion failed, with 4,091 Yes votes and 4,131 No votes.

Raising the required $240,000 a year will pose a serious problem, since the merged union promised its members that under no circumstances would the merger require a dues increase.