Exclusive: New Hampshire Delegates Will Not Attend National NEA Convention, Citing Anti-Immigrant and LGBTQ Policies in Texas
Updated, May 22
Every year for many years, approximately 6,000 union delegates from all states gather at the National Education Association (NEA) Representative Assembly during the Independence Day holiday. However, this year, there will be one state absent from the gathering. The 17,000 members of NEA New Hampshire have decided not to attend the assembly in Houston, Texas. The reason behind this decision is a protest against what they perceive as discriminatory policies towards undocumented immigrants and the LGBTQ community in Houston and the state of Texas. The specific policies that led to this decision have not been disclosed. NEA New Hampshire’s spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
This marks the first time in the 22 years that I have covered NEA’s annual convention that a state affiliate has chosen not to attend. Surprisingly, information about this social justice protest is hard to come by. It is not mentioned on NEA New Hampshire’s website or social media platforms, and news about it is scarce online, although NEA national headquarters has been informed. NEA New Hampshire’s January newsletter only contained a brief note stating that the delegates elected in 2019 will not attend the NEA RA in Houston and will instead attend the 2020 RA in Atlanta.
Concerns about the Houston location were already raised by convention delegates in 2018, leading to the approval of a directive for NEA to investigate the development of a direct-action event during the 2019 NEA RA in Houston. The purpose was to collaborate with potential partners and local organizations to address important issues. It is unclear whether the two-day "Conference on Racial and Social Justice" scheduled by NEA in Houston’s convention center fulfills this directive.
Using non-attendance at the convention as a form of protest could potentially complicate matters for NEA. The passage of Georgia’s new abortion law could pose challenges for certain delegations at next year’s RA, and the 2022 RA is set to take place in Dallas.
In fact, the first proposed directive for this year’s convention aims to prevent NEA from holding future conventions in right-to-work states. However, the implementation of this directive would only take effect in 2025, as the union must book convention cities several years in advance. Four out of the next six conventions are scheduled to be held in Georgia, Texas, and Florida, all of which are right-to-work states. NEA’s staff analysis predicts that this directive would result in higher costs since the number of eligible convention locations would be limited.
NEA already stopped holding its convention in Washington, D.C. during presidential election years due to the high costs involved. Convention costs tend to be lower in the 27 right-to-work states because of a lower number of unions operating within them.
Given the cost and the fact that states can change their right-to-work status, it is likely that the proposed directive will be defeated. In the period between 2012 and 2017, five states adopted right-to-work laws. The proposed directive does not account for such changes.
During the 2018 convention, the New Hampshire delegation submitted only one new proposed directive. It called for NEA President Lily Eskelsen García to meet with leaders from other major public-sector unions to enhance solidarity and collaboration. This proposal was referred to the committee, so perhaps the decision to skip this year’s event will achieve both upholding principles and saving members money.
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