Timothy Noah

Unions Picketing Unions

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This afternoon I walked past the National Education Association and saw about a dozen picketers outside waving signs that said "NEASO," which stands for "NEA Staff Organization." NEASO is the NEA's in-house union, so this was in effect a union picketing a union. The NEA calls itself a "professional employee organization," but basically it's a teacher's union.

When I got back to the office I emailed Sara Robertson, chair of NEASO's communications committee, to ask what the dispute was about. "NEA Staff Organization is negotiating our next 3-year contract with NEA management," she replied. The current contract expires at the end of May. "There isn't much we can say publicly at this point," she added. But in the March 8 issue of "NEASO Matters" NEASO's president, Branita Griffin-Henson, says that NEASO and NEA are in disagreement about how much seniority should be granted to temps who subsequently get hired on a permanent basis. "For the first time since I've been president, we filed a grievance," she writes. The newsletter also alludes to NEASO's desire to negotiate over layoffs and involuntary transfers. I have no idea whether these are the issues currently holding up contract negotiations. But if a contract isn't reached by the end of the month I expect to find out.

If the dispute is over seniority, that would be somewhat ironic because seniority has been a flashpoint in the ongoing debate between the NEA and education-reform-minded politicians.

Update, 5/24: Griffin-Henson sent in the following comment after this item was posted: "When NEASO came to the bargaining table, we were ready to work together to help strengthen basic, core union values and defend NEA and its affiliates from political attacks. Shockingly, NEA has not approached these negotiations with the same attitude. They seem to have forgotten that we are on the same team. NEA’s talented staff is the key to NEA's future. We must move forward together."

I don't know whether that confirms my suspicion that the contract dispute is about seniority rules or not.

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