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NEA-Retired Delegates’ Commitment to Education Continues

It’s estimated that almost 90 percent of NEA members leave the association when they retire, but delegates to this year’s NEA-Retired Annual Meeting are determined to bring that number down by bringing their numbers up.

“Retire from your position, not your profession,” said NEA-Retired President Tom Curran in his address to the 2012 NEA-Retired Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C.

Curran said the NEA weathered a political storm last year – budget cuts, threats to bargaining rights, and layoffs – and that the upcoming year won’t be any easier, which is why NEA retired members need to organize, advocate, and recruit. The message was well-received -- the crowd at the NEA Retired conference Wednesday seemed fired up and ready to fight for education and educators’ rights.

“Work hard in the upcoming elections. Our future depends on you,” Curran said. “We can’t outspend [other groups], but we can out work them.”

Curran thanked a few states for their hard work in protecting unions, including Ohio, for restoring collective bargaining rights, and Michigan, because the state is collecting signatures for a referendum to put collective bargaining in the state constitution.

Curran also talked about the recent controversies in Wisconsin. The governor’s race was such a spectacle, and Walker had to outspend the other side to such a degree, that politicians will probably think twice about attacking union rights again, he said. John Lehman, a former teacher and retired NEA member, was also elected to the state Senate and helped give Democrats the Senate majority.

The NEA-Retired President’s message to NEA Retired members was clear: get involved, because this is going to be a busy year for the NEA. He thanked everyone who had already written letters to the editors of their local newspapers or made phone calls for pro-union legislators, and encouraged people to stay involved in political races.

NEA President Dennis Van Roekel, who addressed the NEA-Retired delegates on Thursday, emphasized the importance of the upcoming presidential election.

“We want the world to know that our members understand the importance of this election to educators, to labor, and to social justice,” he said. “And I believe the choice for us and for America is very clear.”

It took just two years, Van Roekel said, for conservative legislators and their corporate backers to attack or dismantle payroll deduction, agency fees and collective bargaining. It would take even less time for a conservative-controlled federal government to enact a national right-to-work law.

“We’ve got to accept that we have a new reality, and choose a path forward,” he said. “We can’t just defend ourselves, we have to go on the offense, and be clear about our goal – which is great public schools. With a defense and an offense, we’ll be stronger than ever before.”


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