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NEA president says labor unity is necessary to rebuilding America's middle class

Education and job security are fundamental to working families in the 21st century

WASHINGTON - September 15, 2009 -

National Education Association President Dennis Van Roekel today urged labor leaders to rebuild the middle class by strengthening the labor movement and noted that the labor movement historically has served as a pathway to economic security and prosperity in America.  Van Roekel joined prominent labor and political leaders, including President Barack Obama, at the 2009 AFL-CIO annual convention in Pittsburgh, Pa.

"These are challenging times," said NEA President Dennis Van Roekel. "A diminishing middle class, millions of our fellow Americans can't find a job, and millions more lie awake at night worrying about their jobs and losing their health insurance. But this is also a time for opportunity, and it is essential for organized labor to speak and act with a unified voice. Collectively, we must advocate for the policies that will bring job security and prosperity to our members, their families and the students we serve."

Van Roekel, president of the nation's largest and most diverse professional organization and labor union, noted that education, along with the labor movement, is one of the keys to creating the American middle class.

"In the 20th century, we created the middle class that included a majority of Americans—a first in the history of the world," said Van Roekel. "Today, that way of life is threatened. We need strong unions not only to fight for better contracts for our members but to serve as counterweight to the powerful interests that have skewed and distorted our economy over the past three decades."

Van Roekel joined the National Labor Coordinating Committee to advocate on behalf of working families.  The committee represents 16 million union members from 13 labor unions, including NEA.   "This group  provides a vehicle for our members to work together on critically important issues—like reforming health insurance, transforming public education, providing retirement security, creating green jobs and, of course, the Employee Free Choice Act,” Van Roekel said.

Van Roekel also acknowledged the commitment of the Obama administration and Congress to make working families a priority, noting , "We stand shoulder to shoulder with President Obama and Congress as they work to provide health care for every American, restore economic security and transform public education," said Van Roekel. "During trying times, it is imperative that we have a seat at the table and speak with one voice as we move forward to advance an agenda that works for all Americans."

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The National Education Association is the nation's largest professional organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

CONTACT: Miguel A. Gonzalez   (202) 822-7823,