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NEA Executive Director John Wilson responds to misleading ‘Crossroads’ ad

‘There is a strong desire to restore balance and civility to the debate’

WASHINGTON - March 09, 2011 -

NEA Executive Director John Wilson today responded to the misleading ad by American Crossroads, the non-profit political spending group launched by Karl Rove.

 “People of all parties support collective bargaining, and that fact scares Karl Rove, the people at Crossroads and folks like them.  Bob Chanin’s quote was obviously taken out of context, with the intent of being purposefully divisive.  I think Americans are smarter than that, and they are tired of the nasty rhetoric.  There is a strong desire to restore balance and civility to the debate—to have all of the parties involved to come to a table and truly negotiate the issues.  I think people are going to see these ads for what they are: an attempt to pit working people against working people, when we all know that CEO greed is what caused this current financial crisis.

“Not only do these ads take Chanin—who is one of this nation’s greatest advocates for children and public education—out of context, but they also misrepresent the facts.  In states across the nation, research consistently shows that public sector workers are actually undercompensated.  In Wisconsin, for example, an apples-to-apples comparison shows that full-time state and local workers, including school employees, are undercompensated by 8.2 percent compared to otherwise similar private-sector workers. 
“Americans have made it pretty clear that they do not want anyone to take away their rights to collectively bargain—it’s a part of the American fabric, the American story.  Ordinary Americans depend on nurses, teachers, fire fighters, and snow-plow operators, and they know that we’re all struggling together and sacrificing together while some CEOs continue to earn more in a single bonus than public sector workers will see in a lifetime. If the lobby that represents corporate interests wants to continue to wage a war against working people, that’s their prerogative.  But I don’t think it’s going to fly this time.  

“Actions to silence school employees voices by attacking NEA and other public sector unions proves that there are forces across this country today who continue to blame middle-class workers for the mistakes made by millionaires. While workers, like those in Wisconsin, are attempting to become part of the solution, these forces continue to try and silence them by attacking us. The truth is, if it weren’t for our ‘power to advocate’ for the middle class, no one would have to attack us since they would have free reign to decimate the middle class.

“There is no better time for working people to stand together against these baseless attacks.  We’re seeing strong reactions in places like Wisconsin and Ohio, where hundreds of thousands of people are making their voices heard, and I’m sure it won’t stop there.  Folks don’t have to be in the streets to fight back—people can sign up as a volunteer or sign our online petition at Together we can protect the middle class.”

Note to reporters: The following may help as you “fact check” the ad:

Please see EPI’s paper, “Are Wisconsin Public Employees Overcompensated?” which compares total compensation, adjusting for factors such as experience, citizenship, hours worked, and education. Also see the NIRS report, "Out of Balance? Comparing Public and Private Sector Compensation Over 20 Years," which concludes that employees of state and local government earn an average of 11 and 12 percent less respectively than comparable private-sector employees. 

Finally, here is the full text and context of Bob Chanin’s (NEA’s former General Counsel) farewell speech to the NEA membership, where he was explaining why NEA is an effective advocate to combat attacks on collective bargaining, unrelated to NEA’s obvious support for our children’s well being.

“So the bad news, or depending on your point of view, the good news, is that NEA and its affiliates will continue to be attacked by conservative and right-wing groups as long as we continue to be effective advocates for public education, for education employees, and for human and civil rights. And that brings me to my final and most important point. Which is why, at least in my opinion, NEA and its affiliates are such effective advocates. Despite what some among us would like to believe, it is not because of our creative ideas. It is not because of the merit of our positions. It is not because we care about children. And 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 that we are the unions that can most effectively represent them, the unions that can protect their rights and advance their interests as education employees.”

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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional employee 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: NEA Public Relations
(202) 822-7823,