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Why We Need NEA Members for Our Revolution - A View from Virginia

The NEA is the largest union in the United States, and according to our website, our annual Representative Assembly (RA) is the largest democratic deliberative assembly in the world.

As a first time delegate to the recently completed 2017 RA, I was totally amazed by the both the scale of the endeavor and its truly democratic and participatory nature. Our president, Lily Eskelsen García, is a genuine, warm hearted fighter for educators and students who did an incredible job managing a process of more than 7 thousand delegates debating and setting the direction of our more than 3 million member union for the next year. I highly recommend watching her keynote speech if you aren’t familiar with her. I left feeling inspired and empowered, and more committed than ever to work actively to build my union.

Overcoming Fear of Taking on the Billionaire Class

The most effective way I believe I can work to build the NEA is to help build the NEA Members for Our Revolution caucus. As excited as I was about the democratic process of the RA, it was quite clear that there is still a general fear within our union of taking on the billionaire class.

New business items that even remotely addressed the economic needs of our members and students where defeated. This was even more evident in my own state of Virginia than in the general assembly at large. A new business item as innocuous as the following was voted down:

Feasibility Study for Public Bank

NEA will provide support to a state or local affiliate who wishes to conduct a feasibility study of a public bank to learn how these institutions, as opposed to commercial banks, may better support our schools, communities, infrastructure, and those seeking student loans.

With the continued erosion of worker’s rights and the increasing precariousness in which our members and the students we serve find ourselves, failure to address the basic economic realities that put us where we are is not an option. We are obligated to help build a world that puts people before profits, that values human beings intrinsically. The alternative is an ever harsher existence for most of us in a world run by profiteers who value people only for their ability to increase profits.

Both as a career and technical education teacher and as a parent of two children in their 20s I feel this deeply and personally. I understand it is up to us to figure out how the young folks in our charge will make a living. It is up to us to develop the social relations that will assure that the next generation of young people have food, housing, health care, education, and meaningful things to do with their lives. We have no choice but to do this, since the alternative is too horrible to allow.

We need the NEA Members for Our Revolution caucus because we need to raise the consciousness of our union brothers and sisters to the reality that only by addressing the underlying causes of oppression and injustice will we be able to end them. Only by helping our brothers and sisters loose their fear of challenging a system that values profits above people will we be able to meet our responsibility to our students, our children, and to future generations.

The NEA Members for Our Revolution caucus will work to support the platform of Our Revolution within the NEA. Our Revoution is an organization that defines its mission to “reclaim democracy for the working people of our country by harnessing the transformative energy of the political revolution”. Working with Labor for Our Revolution we will be able to connect to the broader progressive labor movement and advance an agenda that benefits all working people.

I am optimistic about our ability to meet the challenges we face and to win our struggle. RA members heard throughout this year’s assembly about our imperative to reach out to the next generation of educators and to bring them into our ranks. The generation under 30 is far more aware than we older folks are of the problems that confront us, and they are much less fearful than we are of addressing these deep structural problems head on. As young folks join our union over the next few years, they will bring with them the insight, courage, and energy we need to win the battles ahead. NEA Members for Our Revolution will be an active part of the fight!