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Emily Welker, Published February 02 2013

North Dakota teachers union, state employees vote to join forces

BISMARCK – In a move that education leaders said was a “big win for both organizations,” North Dakota’s teachers union voted Saturday in a 75 percent majority to merge with the state’s public employees union, creating a new entity about 10,000 members strong.

North Dakota Education Association President Dakota Draper said of the 140 delegates on hand, 105 voted to merge with the North Dakota Public Employees Association, with 35 voting against it. Draper said only a two-thirds majority was needed to make the move. He said the process of merging the two unions won’t be finalized until September 1, 2013, but plans to bring the two entities together are already in motion.

“We’re pretty excited about what’s happened here today,” said Draper, who added that he was doing some celebrating over lunch in Bismarck. “We’ve been talking about this a long time.”

Draper said the merger had come up as a possibility even before union officials began planning the move back in 2009. He said that while the two unions already work with one another on a regular basis, the merger will allow that relationship to become more formal and centralized, with a single president and two vice presidents, one from each organization.

The merger does not mean that either union ceases to exist, according to Draper. He said that the merger instead gives each union some advantages it didn’t have before. For example, the NDEA, which already had membership with the National Teachers’ Union, now gains membership in the American Federation of Teachers, of which the NDPEA is a part. And, Draper said, approximately two-thirds of the NDPEA is composed of professionals in higher education.

“We’re really going after the whole gambit of educating someone in North Dakota,” he said. “We think this is a big win for both organizations.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Emily Welker at (701) 241-5541