Sunday, February 24, 2013

Video: CTU chief of staff and founder of CORE, Jackson Potter, speaks on "Lessons of the Chicago Teachers Strike"

In an incisive video, Jackson Potter covers many of the issues we face here in NYC. The old union leadership in Chicago, much as Unity here in NYC, had the attitude that the members don't care and act accordingly. Top-down, lack of democracy, a sense of helplessness -- listen to Jackson as he describes the visit of a union VP to his closing school telling him to tell the teachers to get their resume together.

If you want an example of the same attitude here of UFT collaboration in the closing of schools, read this account of a visit to Far Rockaway HS by then Queens HS District Rep (now Queens borough leader) Rona Freiser when its closing was announced in 2005 written by an outraged teacher. I posted this reprise the day after Xmas, 2006:
Dec 26, 2006
Where's Waldo – er– the Union at Far Rock? With the recent announcement that 5 schools would be closing, 3 of them large high schools in south Brooklyn, I thought this story of how the UFT operates in relation to these ...
Actually, as I reread this I realize more than ever just what a sellout the UFT had for so long been on the closing school issue. Make sure to click the link above to see what I am talking about. Now Unity slugs go around saying "forget the past." Sure.

Back to Jackson, who is one of the most impressive people I have met, combining great political, organizing and leadership tools. I met Jackson around the same time I met Julie Cavanagh and in some ways they reminded me of each other. Everyone who works with Jackson comes away marveling at his skills. Same with Julie's skill set. I had the absolute pleasure of introducing them to each other in July 2011 at a conference in Chicago. It is no accident that Julie was the unanimous choice to be MORE's presidential candidate.

Jackson Potter is in many ways the architect of CORE. In the summer of 2009, Sally Lee of Teachers Unite worked with Jackson, who she met a year before at the Trinational conference in LA, to organize a 5 city meet-up in LA. Megan Behrent who was in TJC at the time and I, representing ICE and GEM, joined Sally (who was 8 months pregnant with her first child) spent 3 days in intense conversations and social interaction with some key CORE and LA Teacher Union people.

After the conference ended I was fortunate enough to spend an entire day hanging with Jackson, Al Ramirez, Kristine Mayle (now financial secty of the CTU), and Kenzo Shibata (now head of social media for the CTU) as we roamed around LA. Now this was almost a year before they won the election and only a year plus after forming CORE so the conversations were illuminating as to their thinking at that time when they were just considering how a run for office would play out. (You can read some accounts of that trip here:LA Deamin' and LA Confidential.)

This was early in the life of GEM, which a year later initiated discussions between all the other groups, discussions that led to MORE. Let me say right here that without the work of GEM which accomplished so much in such a short time, MORE would not have come into being. GEM, which had people from ICE, TJC, and NYCORE has sort of morphed into MORE -- at least the teacher segment -- while the parent segment, along with some teachers had morphed into Change the Stakes, the group battling high stakes testing and organizing around the opt-out movement.

Here is a link to the you tube video followed by the embedded coded version.

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