Bob Herbert in today's NY Times (A Race to the Bottom) talks about the attacks on workers while millionaire bankers get bailouts. He focuses on teachers and auto workers, quoting extensively from Randi Weingarten. What's interesting is that in the midst of this supposed defense of teachers he says:
But Ms. Weingarten’s defense of her members was not the most important part of the speech. The key point was her assertion that with schools in trouble and the economy in a state of near-collapse, she was willing to consider reforms that until now have been anathema to the union, including the way in which tenure is awarded, the manner in which teachers are assigned and merit pay.
Here we go again as both Herbert and Weingarten engage in the more subtle type of teacher bashing by putting issues like tenure, merit pay and the assignment of teachers on the table as the causes of the problems in education. What Herbert doesn't get is that these ideas have not been anathema to the UFT/AFT.
Rather than pointing out how all these market-based ideas won't work and will in fact damage education, Weingarten goes along with the plan.
The economic crisis is a gift to Weingarten who can use it to justify giving away the store.
Now let me make this clear. This is not just a tactic of Randi Weingarten. Albert Shanker started rolling this ball down the alley 25 years ago and Randi is giving it her own spin. And as far back as 1975 Shanker used the economic crisis in NYC to go along with the layoffs of 15,000 teachers, the cutting of prep periods, the freezing of salaries for years, the closing of schools and lost of other attacks on education, all the while using teacher pension funds to help bail out the city.
When these attacks come this time, the script Weingarten will use was written by Shanker 33 years ago.
What UFT and AFT members need to see clearly is that Randi Weingarten is not there to represent their interests but to serve as the agent for the phony ed reformers in selling teachers on the plan even if it leads to undermining the union at its core.
She does this piecemeal by using scare tactics and saying, "see they wanted the whole loaf and we gave them only 75% but look at the victory in preserving 25%." We have seen it is only a matter of time until the other 25% goes too.
What do the teacher unions get out of this? While teachers at the school level see their unionism destroyed, the union at the top flourishes with incoming dues, a seat (minor) at the table and a sense of power and influence - for the leadership – while the members flail helplessly.
People like Joel Klein don't want the UFT to go away. They serve a much needed function and the political and business/corporate powers that be will continue to praise Weingarten as one of them.
And, so she is.
Related: Ed Notes is inviting people to join in a series of discussions on the role the current leadership of unions is playing and will play in the context of the economic crisis and what the rank and file would need to do to fight back in what is a two front war that attacks them from both sides. Hopefully this will lead to a more in depth analysis. If interested, let us know.