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Bob Chanin Has the Last Word

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Apparently Linda Darling-Hammond has a competitor for rock-star status, and that would be NEA General Counsel Bob Chanin.

Chanin, who retires after this RA following more than 40 years of service to the NEA, was treated to a series of speakers reminiscing on their experiences working with him.

Members of the executive committee, along with NEA Prez Dennis Van Roekel and Vice President Lily Eskelsen, wore T-shirts emblazoned with Chanin's face on the front and the "amicus briefs" joke on the back. (Read more about Chanin at this NEA tribute page.)

Chanin's own speech was really something, almost impossible to summarize (thankfully, NEA is going to put it up on its Web site later). In essence, it took delegates through his entire history with the NEA, which is also the history of NEA's transformation from professional association to union.

Chanin was instrumental in helping write labor laws in various states to support collective bargaining for teachers and in providing support for early contracts.

So why is your dogged blogger bringing this up? Well, consider Van Roekel's keynote, which could be read as a formal acknowledgment of NEA's place in the organized-labor movement.

Or take the discussion over new business item 70 69, which had to do with whether the NEA should go on record in support of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in their organizing drive of the new Delta Airlines.

"As NEA becomes a union and becomes used to being a union, this is what we must support," said one delegate in support of the item. (It eventually passed.)

Essentially, much of this year's assembly turned on the delegates grappling with the meaning of belonging to a union.

In completing his speech, Chanin pointed out that the NEA used collective bargaining and strikes to more effectively represent education employees. And while NEA should continue to advocate policies to close the achievement gap and stop dropouts and promote educational equity, it should not do so at the expense of hard-won rights, such as due process or collective bargaining, he concluded.

"NEA and affiliates must never lose sight of the fact that they are unions, and unions first and foremost represent their members," Chanin said.

A fitting capstone that nicely summed up the flavor of this year's RA.

There was not a dry eye on the stage. The delegates gave Chanin a five-minute standing ovation.

7 Comments

"NEA and affiliates must never lose sight of the fact that they are unions, and unions first and foremost represent their members," Chanin said.

This basically summarizes why teachers' unions tend to oppose attempts at reform. I just hope NEA takes AFT's lead with Green Dot and starts negotiating contacts that are good for students and teachers.

Just why does Channin think that the school system has the right to push political agendas? What right does the State of New York have in paying teachers their full salaries when they are convicted of crimes?
This union is out of control!!!

A fussy clarification - it was business item #69, moved by Minnesota's St Paul Federation president Mary Cathryn Ricker.

Teachers are constantly under fire for what they do. In reality it is the teacher that is the key link in education. Curriculum can be terrible, technology can fail, and administration could be entrenched in antiquated policy, but a good teacher can make it all work.

So why are teachers so maligned? I think it has to do with Chanin's comment, "NEA and affiliates must never lose sight of the fact that they are unions, and unions first and foremost represent their members." So who is the ultimate client of an educator? Is it the student or the union? Teaching has lost sight of their mission which is to EDUCATE THE FUTURE and not a group that, "REPRESENTS THEIR MEMBERS." If the client is first you can never lose. If the client is the union you will always lose. Ask the steel industry.

I guess you had to be there to appreciate Bob and his final words after he was honored by the NEA!

Proud Teacher in PA,

If NEA is the problem, in my opinion, why would I care if Bob was honored by them? NEA needs to stop being a union and go back to advocating for the student and stop "representing their members." If you are an advocate for the student you ARE representing your members. Become student focused and not member focused.

Bob Chanin called me a bast*** and said that I don't give a rat's a** about my association members because I am a right wing conservative and I support paycheck protection. (About 17 min. into his speech). Where is the tolerance the NEA wants for everyone else? The NEA no longer represents me nor the value of education.

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