Teachers Told They’re Endorsing Hillary Clinton by NEA Leadership. Membership Opinions Unnecessary


The decision has been made, teachers.


Your union has spoken.

Now please donate to the Political Action Committee (PAC).

The National Education Association (NEA) represents 3 million educators. It is the largest labor union in the country. However only about 180 people made the decision to back Clinton.

The NEA Board of Directors voted today 118 to 39 in favor of the endorsement with 8 abstentions and 5 absences.

Thursday the 74 member PAC Council voted to endorse Clinton with 82% in favor, 18% against and some of the largest delegations – California and New Jersey – abstaining.

Check my math here. So 61 PAC votes plus 118 Directors plus one President Lily Eskelsen Garcia equals 180 in favor.

That’s about .00006% of the membership.

And we call that an endorsement.

But wait. It can’t really be that simple. All of these people are voted in by members. Surely they polled their constituencies to gauge how individuals wanted them to vote.


To be fair, some NEA directors may have polled state union leaders.

Ronnie Ray James, NEA Director from South Carolina, wrote in to this blog saying he took a straw poll of the South Carolina Education Association (SCEA) board about an early endorsement. He said the vote was close but came out in favor of making the endorsement.

However, that’s a far cry from asking actual card carrying members of the rank and file! Moreover, it is unclear how widespread these straw polls were, if they polled board members about outright support for Clinton and if the leaders of state boards have the pulse of their constituents.

According to NEA by-laws, the organization need go no further to obtain input from individual members for a primary endorsement. Even these straw polls are a formality.

The 8,000 strong Representative Assembly (RA) did not get a say. This larger body representing state and local affiliates will get to vote on an endorsement in the general election when the field is narrowed down to only two major candidates.

But anything like a poll of individual members is apparently not desired by leadership – now or later.

Perhaps that’s because for weeks the rank and file have been vehemently criticizing leaderships’ mounting push to endorse Clinton.

Some opposed to the decision are certainly Bernie Sanders supporters. However, many others complain that it is too early to endorse before candidates have clearly outlined their positions on education or even had a chance to debate.

In an effort to solidify the vote among wavering leadership, Garcia called in the big gun – Hillary Clinton, herself.

The Democratic candidate met with Directors today before the vote. No other candidate was present.

It’s one thing to vote. It’s another thing to do it in the presence of one of the candidates!

This whole process has been a mockery of what labor is supposed to stand for.

Unions are supposed to be about solidarity. The word, itself, means joining together. But this move by NEA leadership has been nothing like that. It has been a top down decision imposed on membership.

It is ludicrous that leaders claim they are representing card carrying rank and file when they haven’t asked us what we think. Nor do they even seem to have the slightest interest in doing so.

Full disclosure: I am not a Clinton supporter. I lean towards Sanders. However, I could accept this decision if it had been conducted democratically – if it really was a reflection of the thoughts of my union brothers and sisters.

Instead, we’ve been treated like sheep. We’ve been herded, fenced in, hushed and placated.

The way I see it, there are only two ways to go from here: we can give up or we can fight back.

It is tempting to become despondent and stop participating in the union. Why bother with people who don’t care what I think? In fact, maybe all those fat cats fighting to destroy us are right. If the NEA won’t include me in something this important, why should I continue defending it? Why keep paying dues?

But I can’t go that route. I won’t. Together we bargain, alone we beg.

The problem is not unions. The problem is our leadership. We must fight to take it back.

We must replace those who would silence the rank and file. We must vote in new leaders who actually represent us and have an interest in our input.

We need leaders who will fight for us, not those who are satisfied with a mere seat at the table and an opportunity to enrich themselves at our expense.

This is hard. It’s much easier to just wave a white flag, go home and watch the football game.

A union is not made of leaders. It is made of members.

Lily is not the NEA. I am.

And I will fight to take it back.

NOTE: This article also was published in the LA Progressive and on the Badass Teachers Association blog.


48 thoughts on “Teachers Told They’re Endorsing Hillary Clinton by NEA Leadership. Membership Opinions Unnecessary

    • Eric Heins, Presidient of California Teachers Association also Abstained at the vote. He had to explain the endorsement at the CTA Region II Leadership Conference a few days later. I am many other people were not happy about it.


  1. I am opposed to this endorsement as well. I sat in on the NJEA PAC committee meeting where they voted ‘no endorsement at this time’, thus leaving the door open to endorse if one of the candidates presented a favorable education platform. Our president, Wendell Steinhauer abstained in DC apparently because they couldn’t get an amendment to the motion to say the same thing. Horrible.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wendell did NOT VOTE as the NJEA PAC instructed him. He was NOT to abstain, he was to vote NO…if California and NJ voted NO as they were instructed by their PACS…it would have been a NO *because of the weighted votes). This was absolute fraud on Wendell’s part.


  2. This is an example of somebody trying to cause division among the members of our UNION!

    This is how the PAC rules are set up, this method was approved by the membership when the red were written, nothing illegal or under cover has happened.

    Read the policies, don’t let people divide us with sensationalism!


    • Mark, I’m not saying this goes against the union’s by laws. I’m saying the by laws are messed up. Can you honestly say a handful of union leaders should be making this decision without first asking the members what they want? I am not dividing the union. Leadership is by ignoring the wants of the rank and file.


    • Thank you. In addition, my state affiliate polled members in late August regarding candidate preference. I have been told members supported Clinton by 2 to 1 which is why our votes were Yes. I am getting a little sick and tired of a relatively small but loud minority of members (NEA has 3 million members) claiming to speak for the majority. That is why we have by-laws and elected representatives to speak for us.


    • Mark, Why wasn’t Sanders or Malloy called in to interview with the directors? This sounds “under cover” to me and underhanded.

      “In an effort to solidify the vote among wavering leadership, Garcia called in the big gun – Hillary Clinton, herself.
      The Democratic candidate met with Directors today before the vote. No other candidate was present.”


  3. This is written to divide Democrats, union supporters, Hilary supporters, and it is written by a very ignorant person. Do not take this article with a grain of salt. Anyone with a grain of intelligence knows our union would NEVER, NEVER, NEVER TELL teachers what to do. They will present the evidence to us, and tell us who they are endorsing and why, but they would never TELL us who to vote for. I call BS on this entire article.


    • Penny, I am an NEA member. I am a longtime union supporter. I am active in my state and local. I wish this article were untrue. NEA has broken no rules. But they have ignored member input into this process. The leadership has violated our trust. Please don’t kill the messenger.


    • When 180 people decide that they can endorse a political candidate without even asking the 3 million members of the organization….this may not be “illegal”, but it still reeks of corruption and is about as far away from being democratic as can be. I totally disagree with you…..this “move” was to try to imply that we, AS A THREE MILLION MEMBER UNION, endorse Hillary and will vote for her. As an NEA member, here is my message back..,…GUESS AGAIN……………………….”of the people, by the people, for the people”?? NEA leadership must be hanging out with Congress……………


  4. This may be how the rules are set up, but the decision still seems out of touch. Without clear education policy stated, how can we know who would be the best candidate to endorse? Also, despite this decision being within the guidelines of the Union, I would hope the Union would listen to the many voices of its membership. There has been plenty of decent in the past few weeks from members, yet the union went ahead with an early endorsement. I don’t expect to agree with everything the union does, but when members voice concerns, and the concerns are unaddressed, there may be a leadership issue.


  5. The way this endowment was handled reminds me of the way the Clintons bend the rules to fit their whims, then parse their words as they strain to justify their shenanigans. I’ve been a big fan of Lily since I saw her sing “No Child’s Behind Left” at the New Orleans RA in 2003, but this whole process was as underhanded and manipulative as any the Clintons might hatch.

    And to me, that’s not only a problem, it’s THE problem.

    I have tweeted Lily and informed her that I am suspending my contributions to the NEA Fund for Children and Education.

    That’s a start.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. This is precisely what is wrong with the process right now. I’m 100% pro-Union, pro-education, and even like Hillary, but this top-down structure of political insider shenanigans is not healthy for democracy. It undermines it.

    And this National Education Association board of directors endorsement, like the former AFT one of Hillary comes before a single debate has taken place, much less one where education could be discussed in detail so members could see a side by side comparison of policy and how authentic of a track record each candidate has (including other dissed Dem runners like Bernie, Martin O’Malley, Webb, Lessig, etc.).

    The worst part is, this is part of *a far broader pattern of top-down establishment politics* that is extremely undemocratic for my Democratic Party and democracy itself. Hillary already has about 1/5th of the nominees locked up in terms of Super Delegates, even though it is still 4 months until the very Caucus or Primary. DCN head and strict Clinton loyalist Debbie Wasserman Schultz drastically cut the number of total debates, scheduled them for poor viewership dates/times, and pushed them back so far to protect Hillary’s early lead.

    To be honest, if this type of insider scheming to create an tilted playing field is successful, it is going to seriously disincentivize millions of progressive activists. What motivation do you think people are going to have when they have their decisions handed down to them instead of being asked?

    Bad call NEA Board of Directors. Bad for schools, bad for students, bad for your union, bad for the RA, bad for the 3 million members, and bad for democracy.


  7. The small NEA board of directors did not wait for a single debate where education could be discussed so it’s membership could actually compare the candidates positions and track records side by side. The NEA board of directors didn’t have a survey of the 3 million members, much less the 8,000 member Representative Assembly that is supposed to determine endorsements. This is the classic example of a small group of people on top trying to dictate to the entire membership how to vote without giving them a chance to speak for themselves. The NEA board of directors has done a great disservice to teachers nationwide, just like the AFT board did in July when they pulled this same stunt.

    Some points to consider:
    •Bernie Sanders wants to stop robbing public schools to pay for private schools. The privatization of education is bad for America. Hillary supports charter schools.
    •Bernie Sanders supports universal, free Kindergarten and Pre-K for 4 year olds.
    •Bernie Sanders wants every public university in America to be 100% tuition free
    •Bernie Sanders supporters smaller class sizes, higher pay, and stronger unions
    •Bernie Sanders stands for student loan interest reductions and expansion of work study
    •Bernie Sanders fully supports DREAMers
    •Bernie Sanders strongly opposes the NCLB
    •Bernie Sanders supports a massive infrastructure repair program like FDR’s New Deal that build thousands of schools across America

    “You’re not another special interest to me. I’m not going to leave here to go out to meet with the bankers or corporate America. You are my family. This is what I do.” +Bernie Sanders

    “Bernie Sanders believes that all students deserve the opportunity to receive an affordable, quality education from the earliest stages of schooling to high-level degrees.” http://feelthebern.org/bernie-sanders-on-education/

    Why the NEA Board Of Directors should not have endorsed yet:
    At the NEA meeting this summer, by far the loudest delegate cheer went to Bernie Sanders, when the names of the candidates were announced http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/teacherbeat/2015/07/where_is_the_nea_presidential_endorsement.html

    The NEA Endorsed Hillary Without Input From Majority of Members https://gadflyonthewallblog.wordpress.com/2015/09/21/the-nea-may-be-about-to-endorse-hillary-clinton-without-input-from-majority-of-members/

    The union’s endorsement was done from the top, pretty much without debate. Not Democracy in education. Teachers resisting union endorsement of Hillary http://www.latimes.com/nation/politics/la-na-clinton-teachers-20151001-story.html

    More Information:
    Bernie Sanders on Education http://www.ontheissues.org/Social/Bernie_Sanders_Education.htm
    Bernie Sanders even scored higher for support of education than Hillary Clinton did http://www.ontheissues.org/Notebook/Note_03n-NEA.htm

    American Federation of Teachers Candidate questionnaire: Bernie Sanders http://www.aft.org/election2016/candidate-questionnaire-bernie-sanders

    There is no stronger advocate for teachers, unions, and education than Bernie Sanders. The decision by the NEA Board of Directors is a bad, untimely endorsement unrepresentative of teachers union members. Bernie Sanders is the #1 candidate for schools.

    Leave a respectful comment on the NRA announcement to let them know why you disagree with the board’s decision: http://educationvotes.nea.org/2015/10/03/nea-board-votes-hillary-clinton-for-primary-recommendation/


  8. This is typical of the unions and has been going on for years now. Unfortunately, the unions like to play politics and they have a history of forgetting about it’s membership. I am a SEIU UHW member and we, the membership may not always agree with the leadership’s endorsement, but we know the power is in numbers and that is us!

    Many American voters and educators do not agree with the NEA endorsement…


  9. I would strongly suggest that those teachers who support Bernie Sanders create a site where teachers across the U.S. can pledge to withhold any contribution to the Clinton campaign and to vote for Bernie Sanders. Done properly I am certain that the response will be significant.


  10. Dog food is sold to the owners, not the dogs that have to eat it. The same is applicable to education policy. It is sold to parents and voters, not the children who have to live with its effects. We have already seen as much in policies such as No Child Left Behind.

    A union that endorses a candidate who demonises and proposes to “prevent and cure” .75 percent of the student body is not one that any union should endorse. Imagine if Hillary said “prevent and cure” black children, or Asian children, or indeed any other group of children with an involuntary characteristic.

    A union that tells teachers “you are endorsing this candidate, no ifs or buts” is one that needs to be done away with. Whilst it is true that Bernie’s position regarding autistic people and the “charity” that is persecuting them remains unknown, unknown is far preferable to this.

    I did not go through my educational years wanting to be prevented and cured. I went through them wanting to be in a place where it was recognised that I deserve better than to be bullied and assaulted. As a man nearly in my 40s, I am still waiting for that place.

    Hillary’s vision of America is quite clearly not that place.


  11. At a time when the Vergara lawsuit, and Friedrichs are both in appeal as a attempt to destroy public service unions, doing this endorsement without input from members was highly inappropriate. We can not afford the appearance of a union acting politically without consent and input of it’s members. As a president of a local teachers union in California, there was absolutely no contact of any type or polling or surveys done by locals, at least not in California. This was a very foolish move at a time when we already are fighting people trying to eliminate our existence. We need to be doing outreach and getting members involved, not making them feel like they are taken for granted, and that the union doesn’t care about their individual concerns. (and for any who with to attack me, I am not a dissatisfied and Angry right wing teacher with an ax to grind. I am a long term member of the democratic party as I have been for the last 36 years.


  12. Ha. The NEA endorsed early without any rank and file voting, the CTA in California is complicit for trying to avoid the limelight and “not endorsing” , but is also, in lockstep with the NEA by not polling their members. As long as the leadership sits in their ivory tower and tells us who we are voting for and what we should believe, without that information coming from the members themselves, particularly in this day and age of readily available, and even handheld, technology, they are not legitimate. It is inexcuseable. Sorry union(s) whatever my own personal political pursuasion,(you will likely assume I am conservative, whatever, you have NO idea). I don’t as a rank and file teacher, anymore, give up a grand (and more) a year for the ass end of a mule. Until the union actually behaves and provides as much direct democracy as possible ( and today a whole lot of direct democracy is readily possible) you are not legitimate. I am not even a Brnie guy, but, had he been the nominee, he would be outpolling your annointed one Hillary.


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