Friday, July 11, 2014

LA Confidential: AFT Travel Day, Part 1

Friday, July 11, 5AM, LA time

Don't expect deep analysis or insights from these reports. Not much time for that. I'm doing them sort of stream of consciousness, diary-like in rough chronological order as the day went. I had lots of conversations with lots of people through the day and want to get them down before they're gone. Luckily my time clock is totally screwed up and I woke up at 3AM - after joining a Chicago TU pub crawl to the top of some building in a bar called The Perch. But read on. Here is what happened yesterday. Some stuff I heard I can't repeat.

Thursday, July 10, 2014
6-7:30 AM - wonderful wife drives me to airport. My ticket had priority check-in so no shoes, belt or computer stuff to do. Boarding - whole bunch of Unity on plane - let's hold a DA. I remind Briget Rein, who I always refuse to give leaflets at DAs just to bug her, that I ain't giving her one here. I get a kiss on the cheek as a reward.

8AM - "Have you ever heard of something called The Common Core? Me and my friends hate it."
This may be the highlight of the day and I told this story to everyone later in the day. My seatmate is a 16-year old junior in high school in a high income area of LA, returning from a trip to Europe with a cousin her age from Kansas and her grandparents.

I don't usually chat on planes but this girl is very friendly and so after a few minutes of talking about school, etc. she asks me that golden CC question and I say "Have I heard of the CC, boy" - the million dollar question.

And I tell her about the upcoming struggle at the AFT convention (Friday) over the Chicago reso opposing the CC and the AFT/UFT/Unity reso sitting on the fence -- it's great but implementation, bla, bla bla. (More on this aspect later on). She loves hearing that people are against it. (But not the Unity crew sitting around us, I whisper to her.)

She laughs and tells me her stories about the CC and how she and her friends have been affected negatively, especially in math. "Why can't I just do the math instead of all the other stuff they throw in which can confuse people about the actual math?" I bring up the story going around about how many wheels on 6 cars? What about kids who see stretch limos or 3-wheel cars in cartoons?

Then she tells me how in Greece her cousin from Kansas starts telling her about this awful program in school called the Common Core. "You have it too," she asked? "I thought only California had it."

I love it - YOU HAVE IT TOO? Like a plague -- I can see some of our creative film types doing something about kids trying to shake off the disease known as the Common Core? Is there an antidote? Maybe the reso from Chicago which the UFT/Unity machine will squash in committee today. (Progressive Caucus - natl Unity - vote late in the afternoon against the CTU reso - more later on this).

I already wrote shitful and didn't even get off the ground yet. Plane is great - with little screens and free movies, etc - only complaint is it took me hours to figure out how to turn on overhead light - you do it from screen - even flight att didn't remember. Waiting for shuttle to downtown - when Jia Lee texts she could pick me up at airport and take me to her parents house in Laguna Beach for dinner. Jia and her son are spending the summer out here. I can never resist hanging with Jia - but I really need to get to the hotel and clean up and get over the convention center to register, etc. So then she says she will drive to the hotel to pick me up and back to parents and then drive me back. That's like an hour each way for her - 4 hours - but my brain is too clogged to figure that out right away. I tell her to meet me at the convention center so she can register.

It's about a 10 minute walk to the convention - which is why I chose the hotel (a bit shabby, but they have free breakfast.) First person I see is Jonathan Lessuck (MORE, Progressive Labor (PL) - which always has a presence at national conventions.) He is manning the AFT Peace and Justice table. Next to him is the Progressive Caucus - Randi's national caucus. Not like Unity - anyone can join for 25 bucks, which I did at the 2010 and 12 conventions - I reported in Ed Notes - no time to find link - how Washington Sanchez and Leroy Barr tried to have me removed in '10). They are meeting at 5 to decide which resos they will back and there I could see Unity people pushing their waffling CC reso and turning down the Chicago reso. Good stuff to write about by identifying which Unity slugs are doing what.

Hmmm. I told Jia I would go back to Laguna Beach with her - no real choice here. Hang with Jia - and save 25 bucks too. So I don't join and head over to register.

 "Did you get your stipend? The important thing is did you get your stipend. All the rest doesn't matter." ... one retired Unity Caucus member to another who was complaining about something minor.

The minute I enter the hall almost everyone I run into are faces from the Delegate Assembly - not just the current DA but people from DAs 40 years ago. If you do the math, probably one out of 3 people to see at an AFT convention is in some way connected to Unity Caucus -- I'm betting our dues payed for close to a thousand people - and oh that travel stipend -- at least 2 grand each - if not more. And there's the sign for people to pick up their meal tickets.

So I register as press, covering for The Wave and there is Leo Casey sitting in the press section, wearing a straw hat and looking like one happy feller. It is actually nice seeing him. We talk sports. In fact despite my nippiness re: Unity, it is nice seeing and chatting with them in this environment. I see people I knew from the DA who I never thought were in Unity. One woman who always comes over to ask for 5 copies of everything I give out for some of her colleagues, says hello. I never imagined she was Unity since so many of them refuse to touch any leaflet that has touched my hands.

"Do you think our leaders will have the guts the NEA had - to call for Duncan's firing? Probably not, they don't have the nerve." ... retired UFT official, who I always liked but had some contention with over the years. I'm paraphrasing to capture the gist of the conversation. Interesting, that a loyal Unity guy would say this -- but I also think it reflects a general sense in Unity of Randi weariness. They don't see Mulgrew this way because he gives the outer appearance of being more of a fighter than Randi.

Jia calls and she has arrived - she hit traffic. So we modify the plan since it couldn't work - I will forego the home-cooked Korean dinner - she will hang around until traffic lets up -- and then run into 2 CTU people who invite us to their reception at 7PM.

Enough for now. I still have 6 more hours to talk about but am heading down for that free breaky.

Coming next: The Adventures of Jia and Norm and the storm over Mulgrew being pushed onto a social justice union panel Sat night with Karen Lewis and new LA president Alex Caputo-Pearl

1 comment:

  1. Norm,

    I think you should load up on ether and gin and cover the rest of the convention, Hunter Thompson-style.

    Call it "The AFT Convention Is Decadent And Depraved."

    See here for the inspiration:


Comments are welcome. Irrelevant and abusive comments will be deleted, as will all commercial links. Comment moderation is on, so if your comment does not appear it is because I have not been at my computer (I do not do cell phone moderating).