By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

The NEA’s non-boycott boycott

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.

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  1. Ken D.

    But then again, anyone who refers to it as a “boycott” without specifying that it is a very limited partial boycott runs a serious risk of misleading, and so doesn’t get gold stars in the reality department either.

  2. Anonymous

    The NEA claims that schools are getting better, their policies work and charter schools are an evil plot by capitalist pigs. Why would anyone doubt thir sincerity? (And how much do those MTA/NEA ads on WBZ radio cost to tell us they need more money “for the children”?)

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