Over the last few months, we’ve been talking with SEA committee chairs to give members a bit more insight into the role of committees at the SEA. This week, we talked with First Vice President Ken Roos, who’s the chair of the Political Education Committee, also known as Poli Ed.
Question: What does your committee do? What function does it serve for the SEA?
Answer: The Political Education Committee, as the name implies, provides information on the interrelationship between politics and our union. There are three main target groups. First, our membership; second, politicians; and third, the general public. We often hear “The SEA should get out of politics!” However, public employees’ collectively bargained rights, job security, working conditions and benefits are decided by elected officials. To protect these rights, our livelihoods and the quality services that Granite Staters deserve, the SEA must be involved in electing candidates who value, believe in, and will stand up for working families; but we also need to hold them accountable. We must then also show our political power in supporting pro-worker legislation and speaking out against that which will harm the people of N.H.
Poli Ed members that are participants in SEAPAC — our very own political action committee — also oversee the voluntary contributions to SEAPAC. Since by federal law, union dues cannot be used for certain political activities or contributions, this fund is administered independently from SEA operational finances, by SEAPAC contributing members.
Q: What would happen if the committee didn’t exist? (Put another way, if there was no committee, what wouldn’t get done)
A: The SEA has built a track record of member advocacy tied to the public good. We help set legislative and electoral priorities and are winning more than ever for our members. We can either make progress toward affordable health care, quality services, better contracts and retirement security, or be frustrated as elected officials ignore our needs and the needs of the people we serve. Without the Poli Ed committee, we would lack a mechanism for member involvement and to advocate for ourselves in local, state and national politics.
Q: How many are on the committee?
A: There are 15 active members, in addition to our Government Relations Coordinator, Brian Hawkins and our SEIU Political Organizer Jay Ward.
Q: Can anyone be on the committee?
A: Any member or retiree is welcome, regardless of political party affiliation.
Q: How often does the committee meet, and what kind of time commitment is involved? What’s a typical meeting like?
A: The committee meets monthly, usually the second Monday of the month at the SEA office. The meetings begin at 5 p.m. and end by 7 p.m.
On numerous occasions, we welcome political candidates and appointees to vet them prior to any recommendation for endorsement. We also review current legislation and plan actions tied to bills of interest to the SEA. Current plans are to identify priorities for the upcoming legislative session tied to the SEA Granite Strong Vision. We will then develop material to educate candidates on these issues and potentially write supportive legislation.
Q: Why should members join your committee?
A: It is important for all members, no matter what side of the political spectrum or walk of life they may come from, to contribute to this work. We need to speak out in support of quality services, workers’ rights and what families need to thrive. If you want to be constructively involved in advancing our goals and political advocacy, then check us out. Our next meeting is Monday, May 12, at 5 p.m.