Document Type


Date of Degree


Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Communication Studies

First Advisor

Hirokawa, Randy Y

Second Advisor

Hingstman, David B


The National Education Association (NEA) has experienced negative publicity and discontent amongst its membership in recent years, thus causing some members to completely withdraw from the organization and still others to become detached. Yet some members remain completely committed. It is through examining the members' talk about identification, involvement, and loyalty that his/her level of commitment or detachment is explored. In-depth interviews were conducted with 15 NEA members at two different local affiliates in the southern region of the United States. The conversations were transcribed and served as the text for content analysis. The major identification barrier for the informants was the NEA's liberal policies, specifically when it came to homosexuality. One local was more organized and committed to the national association, thus allowing their members to be more involved at the local, state, and national levels. The major barriers to involvement were overwork and life cycle issues (i.e., spouses, children, church, social obligations). There were four major themes surrounding loyalty to the NEA: recruitment, incentives for staying, future plans, and reasons for quitting. Most of the members were recruited as student teachers because they felt they needed the liability insurance. Most of them stay for the insurance. Committed members discuss their futures in the organization; detached members do not. The predominant reason members withdraw is because they disapprove of how the NEA handled a local grievance. NEA members are most likely to converse about the organization with their family members and this is usually in defense of the organization. The committed members reported avoiding conservatives when discussing the union. Topics of conversation include goals of the NEA, complaints about the organization, and the nonunion alternative. Prior to this research, identification was often the only variable considered when studying commitment of organizational research. Involvement and loyalty were virtually ignored. This research highlights that identification and loyalty are best understood by listening to the members' talk. Involvement can be easily measured with a survey. Additionally, both the local affiliate and the members' commitment need to be considered when pondering commitment or detachment of a member.


commitment, detachment, ambivalence, teachers' unions, qualitative


141 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 130-141).


Copyright 2006 Amy Aldridge Sanford

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Communication Commons