Just a few years after becoming a teacher, Matthew Guarnieri filled a leadership role as union-building representative, and a delegate to the Connecticut Education Association and National Education Association Representative Assembly. Then and now, Matthew believes in unionization and the ability of employees to negotiate salary, hours, and working conditions. So, what prompted Matthew to leave his union?
When Matthew’s school district implemented “mindfulness” practices during classroom instruction and meetings, he felt uncomfortable as a practicing Catholic. After speaking to his parish priest, and realizing that meditating on anything other than scripture and God was causing the discord, Matthew asked his local union for assistance but was ignored.
At the national level, another part of Matthew’s identity was attacked: his cultural identity. He felt personally attacked when the NEA passed the following resolution:
“The National Education Association believes that the history of colonization needs to be recognized and acknowledged in every state. To do so, the Association believes that the name of the current holiday known as ‘Columbus Day’ should be renamed and recognized as ‘Indigenous People’s Day’ in recognition of the early indigenous peoples who were living in the United States before colonization by European settlers.”
Matthew believes that Columbus Day is an American holiday that Italian Americans championed after the mass lynching of 11 Italian immigrants in New Orleans in 1891. He states, “Changing the name of this holiday is not only anti-Italian, it is anti-American and anti-immigrant.” After contacting the Connecticut Education Association president, Matthew remembers the reply: It is only a resolution.
But many local school districts are now following NEA’s resolution. After Matthew discovered his local board of education changed Columbus Day on the school calendar, he contacted his local union president. Before replying to Matthew, the union president sent an email to the Superintendent of Schools stating, “For the love. . . why does everyone think they get to weigh in on EVERYTHING?” Matthew was on his own when he addressed his employer at several Board of Education meetings about the historical significance, facts, and cultural relevance of Columbus Day. The board did not waver in its decision. During the next election, his local union sent an email in favor of board members who support what he considers the politicization of history.
Enough was enough! Not only did Matthew join Constitution State Educators on Facebook, but he also joined Christian Educators, which gives him liability insurance and legal consultations. It also provides him a network of like-minded Christian educators that he can relate to. In the meantime, Matthew founded the Italian-American Defense League, a non-profit charity that promotes education, portrays Italians positively, and preserves traditions. He is currently collaborating with multiple Italian-American organizations to preserve Columbus Day on school calendars and counter the politically revisionist teaching of history to children.