Mike Antonucci of Education Intelligence Agency, a website that seeks to reveal the inner workings of teachers’ unions, posted yesterday about NJEA’s covert campaign to overcome members’ antipathy and/or apathy toward Corzine. His reporting is largely based on a power point presentation made by NJEA’s Director of Governmental Relations, Ginger Gold Schnitzer, called “Campaign 2009: An Organizational Victory.” Confused? Call it an internal victory because NJEA claims to have radically changed its members’ views on the gubernatorial candidates after the leadership learned over this past summer that its members preferred Corzine over Christie by only 5 points. NJEA leaders decided that lobbying its own members was “an organizational imperative” in order to maintain control of NJEA politics. Writes Antonucci,
This wouldn’t be the first time an NEA state affiliate used member dues and resources to persuade members their opinions were faulty, but the extent of NJEA’s effort was extraordinary. The union live-phoned nearly 105,000 members, established campaign teams in every county, and organized school building visits to lobby members to vote for Corzine. This was nothing compared to what was going on at NJEA headquarters.
According to Schnitzer’s presentation, NJEA “opened a full time campaign office in a conference room,” which was “open from 8 am-8 pm for staff to phone bank, enter data, get training, and learn of other volunteer opportunities.” The NJEA staff also assisted local operations from state headquarters.
The results were dramatic, at least as far as NJEA members were concerned. Corzine’s favorability rating went up 18 points before election day, while Christie’s unfavorable ratings ballooned 21 points. Corzine’s five-point lead among members grew to an astonishing 35 points.
Christie won the state by a comfortable margin, as NJEA’s influence over the general public was not as dramatic, and would not have been decisive in any case. The public’s agenda is much broader than that of the teachers’ union, and so the union’s influence is diffused. But its influence over its own members cannot be overstated, regardless of the members’ preferences.
How do independent-minded NJEA members feel about a substantial percentage of their dues going to their political makeovers by leaders in NJEA who gloat about their ability to puppeteer votes? We’d love to know.