By Jason Hart | Watchdog.org
While most Americans celebrated Independence Day, the National Education Association bemoaned America’s lack of “social justice.”
In a July 4 speech bristling with leftist buzzwords, NEA executive director John Stocks implored union members to be part of a national “progressive” movement.
“America is not working for most Americans,” Stocks told several thousand representatives of the union’s state and local affiliates at NEA’s annual meeting.
Stocks, a white male who was paid $412,398 with teachers union dues last year, blamed the country’s struggles on income inequality and institutional racism.
“I personally believe that we cannot challenge institutional racism without understanding the insidious entitlements of white privilege in America,” Stocks said, noting that he himself has benefited from “white privilege.”
“Income inequality continues to rise,” Stocks said, describing a country where — in the third year of President Obama’s second term — public schools are crumbling and job opportunities are hard to come by.
Because of racism, income inequality, “climate change” and other concerns, the time is ripe for “a movement for a new American majority,” Stocks assured the crowd.
“I’ve been a part of progressive causes and social justice organizing my entire career,” Stocks said. “I know what movement moments look like.”
Brett Healy, president of Wisconsin’s free-market MacIver Institute, thinks Stocks should take a closer look. NEA’s Wisconsin Education Association Council has lost 30,000 members in the past few years.
“In December of 2014, 25 Wisconsin school district unions were rejected by their teachers and were actually decertified,” Healy said in an email to Watchdog.org. “Plus, 100 fewer local unions sought recertification in 2014, down to 305.”
This followed a year when workers represented by 80 of Wisconsin’s public-sector unions — unions that could previously take mandatory fees from nonmembers — voted against continued union membership.
“Now that government workers have finally been given a choice to join a union rather than being forced to join, Wisconsinites are voting to keep their hard-earned money instead of handing it over to the labor bosses,” Healy said.
But NEA still has almost 3 million members, and Stocks relishes his position as a power broker on the political left.
“As the nation’s largest union, we’re the ones who can bring together progressive allies to create the future we know our students need and deserve,” Stocks said Saturday.
Who does Stocks see as NEA’s “progressive allies?” Defunct fringe-left protest movement Occupy Wall Street. Union front Fight for $15. Illegal immigrants. Billionaire Tom Steyer’s environmentalist group NextGen Climate.
“All of these organizations have at their heart a desire for social, racial, economic and environmental justice, and the real possibility of uniting our nation in a grand alliance,” Stocks said.
Larry Sand, president of the California Teachers Empowerment Network, joked that NEA’s meeting sounded like “an early Democratic convention.”
“NEA leadership tends to run far to the left, but clearly the membership is not all far-left,” Sand told Watchdog.org.
CTEN board member Rebecca Friedrichs is a plaintiff in the Supreme Court case Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association, which could end mandatory union “fair share” fees for public-sector workers in every state.
Friedrichs and other California teachers are forced to pay state and local NEA affiliates — an arrangement they say is a violation of their First Amendment rights because public-sector unions are inherently political.
Sand said he doesn’t expect NEA leaders to moderate their politics prior to the Supreme Court’s ruling in the Friedrichs case, but they should if the plaintiffs win.
“NEA just won’t have a captive audience” if they’re unable to take forced fees, Sand said. “So I would think that to appeal to a greater body of people they wouldn’t go out and be this left-wing political machine.”
“Most big companies don’t want to alienate their customers,” Sand added. “I would think NEA would moderate their message. I guess they’re not ready for that yet.”
Judging by the fiery conclusion to the politics-laden speech Stocks gave on July 4, the NEA is not.
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