The fundamental nature of the lack of democracy internally is a bigger threat to the life of the union than the external - in the long run.I hope you've been following the over 200 comments on Diane Ravitch's blog from people all over the nation, many of whom have learned a lot from us here in NYC on how the AFT and UFT operates. Diane began with a post about her relationship with Randi Weingarten My Friend, Randi Weingarten which opened up a firestorm of criticism of Randi and in some cases unfairly to Diane for posting this. But Diane doesn't censor comments and I'm sure our union officials are not happy over the overwhelming thumbs down on Randi -- we don't even see the usual Unity hacks showing up to defend her.
But as we've been discussing in MORE, the failure of the union on so many levels creates a dangerous internal anti-union - rather than anti-union leadership which leads people to call for ending dues check-off, mandatory dues and other right wing wet dreams. I understand the frustration, especially in the UFT where even if we organized a CORE like caucus with wide outreach, we still would be far from being able to win more than a few meaningless positions. The fundamental nature of the lack of democracy internally is a bigger threat to the life of the union than the external - in the long run.
Below is Michael Fiorillo's response to a call for abandoning unions. And let me also affirm what Michael says about Randi: – who, by the way, has always been accessible and respectful to me personally, and toward whom I harbor no personal animosity....
In my case I have been particularly critical of Randi's leadership since 2001. Yet every time I see her she is friendly and personable and accessible. I know some people see this is smart politics but I am not getting into motivation. If it is politics on her part it works to the extent that we can manage to keep the discussion on a political, not personal, level.
in response to H.A. Hurley:
It may be time to abandon the unions. I can’t think of any beneficial reason to teachers for their purpose, at this time. We used to be able to count on them and I have received their assistance on several occasions. If teachers join for liability insurance only – one can get it much cheaper [...]
While it might be tempting for some teachers to imagine other uses for the money that now goes to union dues, the fact remains that unions are the ONLY institution in the country that exist to defend the rights of working people.The worst, most corrupt union is still better than no union at all. Despite my criticisms of Randi – who, by the way, has always been accessible and respectful to me personally, and toward whom I harbor no personal animosity – and the UFT leadership, I have no illusions that my life would be better without the union, and nor should any other teacher.Just as the public schools need to be taken back by the public and reformed in accordance with democratic principles, in the interest of Democracy itself, so too the unions must be democratized and re-energized. Those processes would occur together, and reinforce each other.As for Diane posting about her friendship with Randi, why should anyone have a problem with it? Diane occasionally writes on the convergence of personal and political matters, and those are important discussions to have.As for any inferences about her motivation, I take what she writes at face value, and am grateful for the platform her post gave opponents of Randi to educate teachers and AFT members in other parts of the country.That this forum is so open and wide-ranging, and that the level of discussion and debate remain as high as they do – things that Diane has assiduously cultivated on this blog – guarantees that the truth will assert itself and be recognized among the readership.