National Education Association president Reg Weaver has a letter in today’s Boston Globe that is disingenuous at best. Following the contretemps over the op-ed published in the Globe earlier this week criticizing the NEA’s campaign against Wal-Mart – an op-ed that turned out to have been indirectly subsidized by Wal-Mart (click here and here) – Weaver writes:
WEAVER: Michael Reitz is not the first to characterize the National Education Association as supporting a boycott of Wal-Mart (“Why target Wal-Mart?” op ed, Aug 16). This is just not true. The NEA, which represents 2.7 million educators, voted to support the “Wake Up Wal-Mart” campaign to educate its members about the retailing giant’s antiworker practices and how its profits are used for anti-public education activities. The effort is about educating, not boycotting: Consumers are simply reminded that when they shop, they have choices about where to spend their money.
Not a boycott? Here is some information on the anti-Wal-Mart campaign that I found on the NEA’s website. Yes, the wording is circumspect, and supports Weaver’s claim that the campaign is not a boycott. Except that the very first sentence begins, “The NEA Executive Committee approved the Association’s participation in ‘Wake-Up Wal-Mart,’ a major national effort organized by the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) …” And the NEA provides a link to the “Wake-Up Wal-Mart” website.
Follow the link, and the very first thing you will find is a graphic that reads, “Send Wal-Mart ‘Back to School’ this summer. Pledge to buy your school supplies somewhere else.”
Drill down a little more deeply, and you can sign an online pledge. It begins: “Because Wal-Mart is failing America, I … pledge to send Wal-Mart ‘Back to School’ this summer by buying my ‘Back to School’ supplies somewhere other than Wal-Mart.”
The American Heritage Dictionary defines “boycott” as follows: “To abstain from or act together in abstaining from using, buying, or dealing with as an expression of protest or disfavor or as a means of coercion.”
By any reasonable definition, the NEA, by taking part in a campaign that asks people not to buy school supplies at Wal-Mart, is participating in a boycott. For NEA president Weaver to deny that is to deny reality.