Union Matryoshka

The big-time blogosphere is fascinated not just by the National Staff Organization’s boycott of hiring at the Wisconsin Education Association Council (first reported here, I might add), but by the fact that union staff unions exist at all. The story appeared on Hot Air, Instapundit and Megan McArdle with a “how about that?” tone in each.

Cornell law professor William A. Jacobson, in his blog Legal Insurrection, asks this question:

Isn’t that great, education union employees have their own union? Is there a union for employees of education union employee unions?

Professor Jacobson is joking, but the question is almost reasonable. I refer you to this item from the EIA Communiqué of February 9, 2004 – item #7:

Union’s Union Has Labor Problem. Labor unrest is a perpetual problem, even for unions. But the latest hilarity from DC shows that no one is immune.

Long-time EIA readers are fully aware of the fact that teacher union employees themselves belong to a union – normally referred to as a staff union. The staff union negotiates a collective bargaining agreement with the teachers’ union (who act as management). As a short trip through the EIA archives will illustrate, the relationships between the unions and their staffs are often divisive.

The latest dispute goes to another level entirely. The National Education Association Staff Organization (NEASO) represents about 400 staffers who work at NEA headquarters in Washington, DC and in various regional offices. NEASO collected more than $327,000 in dues in 2002. This staff union is big enough to require, well, its own staff. To oversee NEASO affairs, the staff union employs a staff of two: an executive director and an executive assistant. In 2002, the executive director, Deborah Leahy, earned $73,940.

Last fall, NEASO dismissed Leahy for undisclosed reasons. Last week, NEASO informed its members that Leahy has retained an attorney and is considering suing the staff union for breach of contract.

If only Ms. Leahy had belonged to a union! She could have formed the National Education Association Staff Organization Staff Organization (or NEA-SOSO). Or she could have sought the help of EIA’s now-dormant staff union: EIEIO.