Michael Gaynor
NEA's Bob Chanin's entire address doesn't make that ad misleading
By Michael Gaynor
March 16, 2011

In Wisconsin, where it had started, eventually things fell apart instead of into place as a result of public employee unions having been given collective bargaining rights, so corrective action was taken.

In response to my article titled "Bob Chanin Spoke Truth About the NEA in His Retirement Address in 2009" (www.webcommentary.com/php/ShowArticle.php?id=gaynorm&date=110315), an emailer wrote:

"I've seen the attack ad on tv and was just as disturbed about Chanin's words as you... that is, until I actually went on YouTube to listen to his entire address. I am one of 25,000+ people who have done that. How many people do you think have heard the attack ad? I would guess it's easily in the millions, wouldn't you?

"Did you listen to the entire address?"

Yes, I think millions saw the ad and I listened to the entire address. It's about twenty-five minutes long and available at http://daytonos.com/?p=6836.

To me, the entire address did NOT make former NEA general counsel Bob Chanin's words included in what my emailer deemed "the attack ad" any less disturbing.

The ad showed Chanin making what he described as his "most important" point and it was NOT misleading.

Television commercials are not documentaries, so, as examples, Chanin's story of how he helped transform the NEA from a "conservative, apolitical, do nothing organization" into a powerful union with an economic and social agenda and Chanin's high praise of the late Albert Shanker was not included.

Shanker was a teacher union leader who was jailed in 1967 and 1968 for leading illegal teacher strikes (one of which shut New York City schools for 36 days) and bluntly said, when asked whether he considered it part of his union's responsibility to improve educational quality, "When school children start paying union dues, that's when I'll start representing the interests of school children" (http://books.google.com/books?id=32CClXOYeScC&pg=PA33&dq=albert+shanker+children+start+paying+union+dues#v=onepage&q=albert%20shanker%20children%20start%20paying%20union%20dues&f=false).

Chanin explained NEA's effectiveness as follows: "It is not because of creative ideas, it is not because of the merit of our position, it is not because we care about children, it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child. NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power and we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of millions of dollars in dues each year because they believe we are the unions that can most effectively represent them, the unions that can protect their rights and advance their interests as education employees."

The ad did not include the first two phrases and the last words beginning with "because."

That's not misleading.

Union leaders like Chanin admittedly want to advance the "liberal social and economic agenda" and to use even the dues of members who reject that agenda to promote it. They don't trust their members to voluntarily contribute to the political and social campaigns they conduct.

Elsewhere in his address Chanin claimed victim status for the NEA, as follows: "Why are conservative and right wing bastards picking on NEA and its affiliates? It is the price we pay for success. NEA and its affiliates have been singled out because they are the most effective unions in the United States and they are the nation's leading advocates for public education and for the type of liberal social and economic agenda and social agenda that these (conservative) groups find unacceptable. NEA will continue to be attacked as long as we continue to be effective advocates for public education for education employees and for human and civil rights."

Chanin was candid about his priorities with respect to closing the achievement gap, reducing drop out rates and improving teacher quality: "These goals that guide the work we do they need not and must not be achieved at the cost of due process, employee rights and collective bargaining. That is simply too high a price to be paid."

The people of Wisconsin (the state in which collective bargaining rights first were extended to public employee unions, as Chanin noted in his address) simply realized that the price of extending those collective bargaining rights had become "too high," and so their duly elected state legislators and new governor acted to revoke them.

Chanin also opined: "When all is said and done NEA and its affiliates must never lose sight of the fact that they are unions and what unions do first and foremost is represent their members. If we do that and if we do it well then everything else will fall into place. NEA and its affiliates will remain powerful and that power will, in turn, help us achieve a great public school for every child."

In Wisconsin, where it had started, eventually things fell apart instead of into place as a result of public employee unions having been given collective bargaining rights, so corrective action was taken.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was right when he described strikes against the taxpayers as "unthinkable and intolerable," former AFL-CIO president George Meany was right when he said that "[i[t is impossible to bargain collectively with the government" and the AFL-CIO Executive Council was right when it advised that, "in terms of accepted collective bargaining procedures, government workers have no right beyond the authority to petition Congress — a right available to every citizen" (http://blog.heritage.org/2011/02/19/fdr-warmed-us/).

© Michael Gaynor


The views expressed by RenewAmerica columnists are their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of RenewAmerica or its affiliates.
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Michael Gaynor

Michael J. Gaynor has been practicing law in New York since 1973. A former partner at Fulton, Duncombe & Rowe and Gaynor & Bass, he is a solo practitioner admitted to practice in New York state and federal courts and an Association of the Bar of the City of New York member... (more)


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