OEA opens its offices to Socialist group

OEA opens its offices to Socialist group

OEA opens its offices to Socialist group

The priorities of Oregon teachers unions have never been more clear than they have been in the past four years, and advocating for quality education continues to check in near the bottom of the list.

From pressuring state officials to keep schools closed during the COVID pandemic, to playing an instrumental role in suspending state graduation requirements, bankrolling groups calling to “defund the police” with members’ dues and again keeping students out of the classroom during Portland’s infamous weeks-long teacher strike that backfired by almost every metric, the Oregon Education Association (OEA) has demonstrated the goal proclaimed on its website of “providing the basic right of great public education to every student” is just a bunch of hot air.

You’d think now might be a good time for union leaders to at least give the impression they share some of the values held by broader swaths of American society rather than just the radical political and ideological goals of those on the extreme left.

Instead, the OEA has taken to allowing the Salem chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the nation’s most prominent socialist organization, to use the union’s district office for its monthly general meetings.

As the name implies, DSA is dedicated to the abolishment of capitalism in America. It’s the group that, in recent years, has garnered more attention than it otherwise deserves by producing such fiery members of U.S. Congress as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).

Beyond tearing down the free market, however, DSA stands for an entire laundry list of other divisive views — not the least of which is its morally bankrupt stance supporting the horrific attack on Israeli citizens by Hamas terrorists in October 2023, which drew widespread condemnation from its own endorsed politicians and now-former members.

Through its Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) and Palestine Solidarity Working Group, established by DSA in 2019, the organization has even produced an anti-Semitic “toolkit” with messaging guidance further explaining that Israelis living in the disputed territories “are not ‘civilians’ in the sense of international law” and that “[r]esponsibility for every single death falls on the [Z]ionist entity.”

The not-so-subtle message is that specifically targeting and murdering Israeli non-combatants, as occurred in October of 2023, is fair game.

Salem DSA, for its part, is still echoing the call.

Several social media posts made by the group last month proclaim, “From the River to the Sea,” a chant broadly acknowledged to mean that the state of Israel and its people should be completely erased from the region.

As the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) explains, “(T)his rallying cry has long been used by anti-Israel voices, including supporters of terrorist organizations such as Hamas … that seek Israel’s destruction through violent means.”

Ironically, the OEA promotes a pair of lesson plans developed by the ADL, titled “No Place for Hate” and “Building Insights to Navigate Antisemitism & Hate,” on its website. So why on earth is the union harboring the very organization spewing such hateful, racist rhetoric at its district office each month?

The reason isn’t actually all that surprising.

It stems from the simple reality that unions like the OEA are far more concerned with advancing their political and ideological self-interests than they are with truly doing the right thing. The anti-hate resources posted on the union’s website don’t mean anything when you consider, as one former DSA member puts it, that “(p)olitically, you’re judged by the company you keep.”

It’s unclear whether the OEA and/or its local affiliate, the Salem-Keizer Education Association (SKEA), is renting or donating the space, but either way, union leaders wouldn’t be offering it at all if they didn’t view DSA as an ally.

And Salem DSA is just that.

In addition to holding its monthly membership meetings at SKEA’s office, the organization recently hosted an event called “Salem-Keizer Strike School.” This one wasn’t held on union premises, but it was held for the obvious purpose of training individuals on how to strike — in anticipation of the currently averted possibility within the Salem-Keizer School District — and exploring how to “restore labor militancy across the Willamette Valley.”

It begs the question: To what extent are strikes organically supported by and composed of actual teachers versus radical activists like those in DSA just looking for something to do? The event appears to have been open and advertised to the general public rather than tailored to educators specifically.

Yet it also provides a local example of the very real extent to which DSA and organized labor are intertwined.

According to Salem DSA, the strike school promised “a panel of strike experts to answer any questions you have about being #strikeready,” and asked attendees to “(j)oin DSA as we engage in conversation with union organizers from across the state of Oregon.”

At the national level, the socialist organization’s BDS and Palestine Solidarity Working Group even created an “Educators for Palestine Project” aimed at “mobilizing education workers who want to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people and their heroic struggle for liberation … because of the crucial role educators can play in the movement – in the classroom teaching, outside it advocating and agitating…”

Parental rights groups have documented teachers unions’ direct promotion of such DSA activities in other states, alongside DSA’s broader aims to inject itself into the public education system through involvement with organized labor.

At last count, nearly one in five teachers had left the OEA since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2018 that they could no longer be forced to financially support the union. They aren’t leaving for no reason. The radical political agendas that union leaders support using their members’ dues play a big role in teachers’ decisions to opt out.

Hosting groups like DSA is unlikely to help. Ultimately, if it’s true that “politically, you are judged by the company you keep,” then Oregonians have little choice right now but to judge DSA and the OEA as one.

After all, in Salem, they’re sharing the same office.

But hey, it could be worse. At least there’s no connection between government unions and Antifa.

Or is there? After all, unions like the OEA evidently keep the company of DSA, and DSA has adopted a resolution, fittingly co-authored by its Portland chapter, to “create a national working group dedicated to antifascist organizing…”

Come to think of it, wasn’t there some kind of Antifa meeting scheduled at a government union office in Portland?

Maybe it’s just a coincidence.

Research & Government Affairs Associate
Ben Straka serves as a Research and Government Affairs Associate for the Freedom Foundation, where his responsibilities include an array of policy research and reform efforts aimed at supporting the organization’s mission through legislative advocacy and public policy expertise. His work has been published in various local news outlets throughout the Pacific Northwest and the country, and he has appeared as a guest on radio programs such as The Lars Larson Show, among others. He has regularly testified before the Oregon State Legislature on matters of labor policy and government transparency, has advised local government leaders on labor relations, and has represented employees in administrative proceedings under the state’s collective bargaining laws. Ben first joined the Freedom Foundation in 2016, and holds additional professional experience in the fields of real estate development and construction. He is a native of Eugene, Ore. and a graduate of Corban University, where he studied political science and business. He lives in Oregon with his wife.