Lee's piece is long but well worth reading. Lee writes for the Socialist Worker, associated with ISO (International Socialist Organization). We have been working closely with a number of ISO teachers here in NYC.
Lee goes beyond the Bill Gates issue and touches on the major Weingarten sell-outs in Colorado and beyond. This is information every single one of you should share with every single colleague in your school and beyond. Just send them a link to this ed notes post.
Before you delve into it, I want to highlight the area that I have been emphasizing – the flash points between the two big caucuses - Chicago's CORE and New York's Unity.
While not formally part of the opposition--
CTU President Karen Lewis joined the union's ruling Progressive Caucus and won election as an AFT vice president--there were frictions between the Chicago delegation and Weingarten's home union local, the United Federation of Teachers in New York City.
The main disagreements were over convention resolutions on charter schools--where the Chicagoans wanted to call for a moratorium on charters as a form of privatization, the New York delegation insisted on restating the AFT's support for charter schools as a matter of school choice, and prevailed.
For the moment, the debate over charters, teacher evaluation and merit pay may fade to the background as the Chicago teachers gear up to fight the threat of layoffs. But the AFT's pursuit of partnership even as teachers are under their greatest attack in decades will inevitably lead to a struggle over the future of teacher unionism.
Read the above carefully and connect the dots to the story on the firing of the 10 key teachers at the Merrick Charter School in Queens that were trying to organize for the UFT. This charter school is founded by the head of the NY State Senate Malcolm Smith, who I bet the UFT has endorsed in the past and maybe even is endorsing again - he has no opposition so it is a mute question. The UFT has a press conference today at 1pm on this issue. See our updated post from last night:
So how does this connect, aside from exposing the bankrupt policy of the UFT's total focus on political action?
Chicago/CORE called for an moratorium on charter schools at the AFT convention because they undermine public schools.
The AFTUFT/Unity gang supports charters along with a policy of organizing charter school teachers. How is that working out so far? Chicago people have pointed to how few charters have been organized and also point to how even when they are, there are individual contracts signed, which dilutes the power of a big union. Another bankrupt strategy of the UFT/AFT.
I was asked last night by a parent activist if the UFT had issued a press release or has any notice of the press conference and I said I only knew about it from her.
"Why not," she asked?
"Because they are very nervous these firings will kill off any organizing they are doing as charter school teachers realize the UFT has no real ability to protect them from retaliation. So the UFT is doing a semi-public relations gambit and threatening a law suit which can take a bit of time and do no good to the teachers who were fired." This entire thing can turn out to be a major PR disaster for the UFT/AFT.
The Merrick situation must be sending a chill in a very hot July down the spine of the UFT/AFT strategy because it is in the belly of the beast - with heavy Democratic black politicians associated with the firings. By the way, the charter school is managed by for profit Victory Schools which just hired Michael Duff away from the DOE. Victory also took a pound of flesh from another Malcolm Smith founded school in Rockaway - Peninsula Prep. Rockaway's local paper, The Wave, has been claiming that the closing of Beach Channel HS was related to a land grab by Smith for his charter.
The NY Times did a major front page expose on the Floyd Flake/Smith/Greg Meeks scams a few weeks ago.
Make sure to check out the Resolutions Chicago suggested at the AFT: