Randi is feeling the heat and it's not just from the weather
Seattle, July 8, 7am, pst
(This post will be updated through this morning so check back later)
It's supposed to get hot here in Seattle today with temps reaching 90, but it may get even hotter at the convention hall with the opening session of the AFT today.
Randi was burning the midnight oil last night polishing her big keynote speech due to be delivered around 11am this morning. She gave a preview to the Progressive Caucus (the national version of Unity) meeting, which I joined for $20 so I could attend – and therein lies a tale with Randi herself coming over to give me a love tap.
The reaction must have been that she was not tough enough on Obama/Duncan — and she certainly wasn't. The anger of teachers at them is so palpable. So reports surfaced while we were hanging with the Chicago Teachers CORE people at the Hard Rock Cafe last night that Randi was reshaping parts of her speech to make it look like she was tougher on Obama/Duncan. Yawn.
NEA's president Dennis Von Roekel came out strong a few days ago (Teachers Union Chief Blasts Obama Administration's Education Policies Teachers Union Chief Blasts Obama Administration's Education Policies though Susan Ohanian calls it "Too little too late - This is the same union that told its members not to sign the petition against NCLB. Their argument was they needed a seat at the table."
But it is Chicago's new president Karen Lewis (who I met last night) who is getting raves for her acceptance speech last week when she took over the CTU on July 1. Ana Philips has a great piece over at Gotham on this speech: Chicago’s aggressive, new union leader introduces herself.
Lewis' speech is not to be missed. Ana writes:
If anyone wondered what the union backlash to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan’s leadership would be like, watch this state of the union address by Chicago’s newly elected teachers union president.....Led by Weingarten, the national branch of the union has taken a softer approach to its relationship with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. And in New York, we’ve yet to hear rhetoric like Lewis’s from union president Michael Mulgrew.
Oooh! Nice dart from Ana. By the way, there has not been a Mulgrew sighting here yet. He must be up in Randi's room ironing her clothes.
Do you believe this…..Ms. Lewis did not use any buzz words! there was no mention of robust, of invigorated, of forward thinking, of a new paradigm. I bet she was never schooled by McKinsey. Hallelujah….someone who talks intelligently, who like a real person, wants to improve our education system for our children. Now that’s an innovation
Leonie Haimson said:
“Our opponents have deep pockets and shallow morals.” I like that line!
Heh, heh, heh - you don't have to look far here in Seattle to find union officials with shallow morals and deep pockets.
So yes Randi IS feeling some heat. She even went to dinner with the Chicago new leadership last week. One of them told me "she really loves you." How nice to see Randi misses me. We did speak yesterday after her speech and I really do miss her - so much material.
So one would have expected her speech to try to compete in the anti-Obama/Duncan rhetoric. But it didn't and that is why I expect her to act tougher - and I mean act - in today's version.
When the Progressive Caucus nominated her and she got up to accept- she said she would just say a few words - sure Randi - you and a few words are incompatible.
The Unity crew - remember though they dominate the room this is still a national caucus - gave her a rousing standing ovation before and after the speech. Many of them in private conversations say how happy they are to have Mulgrew - a real teacher. But there are those shallow morals, you know.
Randi looked good - tanned and maybe a little thinner - as she took the podium. She was wearing - how the hell would I remember what she was wearing - this is not a fashion report. Besides I was too busy fending off Unity hacks.
Before the speech a contact told me that the AFT hired Michael Powell as their new messager - a guy who shapes the message after polling to see what resonates. Powell was involved in the disastrous and short lived Harold Ford Jr. campaign in NY recently. Ford dropped more than a few ed deform crums in his brief stint. Maybe Powell is really the AFT's new massager to rub Randi's back when she is tired. At any rate their polling - internal and external showed that the way they shape their defense of teachers is crucial to the response of the public.
So - here it is - the grand theme - FIGHT SMART.
Now we all know what that means. A way to rationalize all the givebacks the AFT/UFT has agreed to.
After talking about the hot weather, Randi began by saying: "Those of us who have been in the trenches for a long time..."
Huh? What trench has she been in?
"...you have seen hot all year."
Oh, I get it - a funny.
"We are finding things we have never seen - even from a Democratic president - telling us we don't have a right to exist- no voice, no retirement security..."
That's about as tough as she got. She continued with, "Why are we upset? Not a surprise. Members are mad." Sure, real members as opposed to the Unity hacks are mad at her.
"They didn't sign up for a world where we would be demonized and scapegoated, where even if you have no U ratings every single teacher would be fired."
She was referring to Central Falls, RI, which she is claiming credit for saving all the teacher jobs. Unity hack supremo Jeff Zahler stressed that point before Randi's speech.
"It is easy to vent against people we supported for a long time. Now all of a sudden they have gone from liking us to not liking us." At that point I was getting cramps.
"Look at the economy." Oh that one is coming. Like the ed deformers weren't attacking teachers in Chicago and beyond in the mid nineties when the economy was booming - except in NYC where in 1995 Randi went along with the Mayor Giuliani line the city had no money and she negotiated a 5 year contract with a two year wage freeze, only to see the city have a billion dollar surplus a year later. Yeah, that economy.
"When we say we need more taxes or deserve retirement security - part of the social contract - we worked for low wages - they want to bring us down. Our strategy - yes - fighting back hard [oh when did she fight back hard] and fighting smart.
There it is - the big strategy laid out for us to wonder at. Or wander at. Or wender at.
She went on - "Fighting Smart lifts all boats - trade unions are not anchors of privilege but beacons of hope. We have a harder job than ever. We have to call out the demonizers no matter who they are..."
AND HERE COMES THE BIGGIE, FOLKS -
"EVEN IF THEY ARE THE PRESIDENT OR THE VICE PRESIDENT."
So there, Ana Philips. How dare you say Randi I mild compared to Karen Lewis or Diane Ravitch.
Now back to the pablum:
"You went into this [teaching] in the first place to create a greater good."
Come on Randi - some of us went into teaching so we didn't have to go to Vietnam. Let's be honest here. Teaching is also a job. We can do it well but also not have it be a calling.
"The reason we have a full opposition slate against us - instead of national taking a step back..." [what does she mean by a step back?] "we rolled up our sleeves and helped those on the front lines - Central Falls, Detroit, Cincinatti, California ..."
We are getting a geography lesson - but Randi seems to have forgotten Washington DC and her best friend Michelle Rhee who along with New Teacher Project Tim Daly have a love affair with Randi.
Then she goes into the screwing - oops - the saving of Detroit - you know where Randi helped broker a deal where teachers gave up money to save jobs. How the city was going to go bankrupt, etc, etc, etc.
She ended with the usual screech that got everyone to their feet - we will see better days ahead you know. Well, maybe when we have more Chicago-like revolts.