The Washington Teacher blog reports:
WTU Executive Board members have been notified that a special meeting of the executive board will be held Thursday, December 4, 2008, at 7:00 p.m. at the WTU. Ms. Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), has been invited to the meeting to discuss critical issues affecting the WTU. I am sure that issues related to our tentative agreement (teacher contract) and recent discussions with Chancellor Rhee will be among the hot topics to be discussed.
In addition to dealing with Michelle Rhee, the Washington TU has internal issues with what looks like a top-down leadership that acts without input of the members. But the union does seem to have people on the Exec Bd who will raise issues with the leadership, something the UFT has made sure cannot occur in NYC.
Maybe that will be Randi's advice to WTU leader George Parker who has failed to hold a representative assembly meeting in September, October or November.
Keep up the good work. Now just get those people who criticize you off the Exec Bd and all will be well.
Randi will come on all militant at this meeting. Maybe even throw a few curse words around about Rhee. My message to the rank and file of the WTU is: make no mistake about it. The AFT is not your unequivocal advocate in the war with Rhee, who has so much support from politicians and the business community which Randi so much wants to court. So out and out support for the WTU will not be in the cards, though Randi's speeches internally will make it look that way. We have learned here in New York to watch what she does, not what she says.
The AFT, which is after all controlled by the UFT – Ed Notes has written extensively on this tail wagging the dog situation – wants to be viewed as "ed reform" friendly. Witness recent quotes from Leo Casey about not being wedded to ideology. They are "realists." Translated that means the winds of reform are calling for merit pay, measuring teacher quality by standardized tests, developing flexibility about tenure, having the union play a role in removing teachers, etc.
This mindset has existed since the early 80's when Al Shanker shifted the role of the union (without any internal discussion, of course) into this reform camp in exchange for a seat at the reform table even when "reform" has been narrowly defined by the enemies of teacher unions. So don't blame Randi for instituting this policy. In fact she is even better than Shanker at this stuff because she play the I feel your pain role so well.
And that is exactly what she will do at the WTU meeting. But behind the scenes she will urge a deal with Rhee in which teachers will lose half a loaf and then proclaim that a victory. That is what Rhee is after. She and Joel Klein put outrageous demands on the table and then Randi gives them part of what they want with lots of gaps left open for them to get the rest over time. What Randi will get is a bribe for teachers to give up their rights by getting them money, some of it for longer days and years. This is a good short term investment in the world of Rhee who full well knows with the absolute power to hire and fire, she can make sure few teachers will reach the higher salaries promised.
Only democratic elements within the WTU can put roadblocks in the way of the almost unstoppable events set in motion when your own union stops functioning as your advocate but shifts to the role of mediator between people like Rhee and Klein and the rank and file.
Fighting a frontal assault and a rear guard action from the likes of Randi Weingarten and justifiers like Leo Casey can easily turn into a lose-lose proposition.
It is not too soon to start to scream.