Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Randi's Nightmare Continues: Steve Conn Sworn in as Detroit Teacher Union President

Think of this as the AFT version of the Greek election.
Conn, who has run for DFT president about a dozen times before, credits his victory to members being fed up with the "fiasco disaster" that governor-appointed emergency managers have brought to the district over the last six years. "This is about a struggle for civil rights" in DPS, he said about his new role... Detroit Free Press
Ed Notes reported the story on Jan. 17 this way: Randi's Nightmare: DETROIT TEACHERS Elect Steve Conn
Conn said with some classes as big as 40 to 50 students or more, pushing for smaller classes will be among his top priorities.
Holy crap -- a teacher union leader making class size a priority.

Steve may be the most militant teacher union leader in the nation. He lost a recent election by only a few votes and this time won a narrow victory by 15 votes in a run-off. Race plays a role in elections and most Detroit teachers are not white, while Steve is white - but also Steve has had a strong history on issues related to the black community. Most of all, even half the union voting for his well-known left leaning level of activism is MAJOR. Think of this as the AFT version of the Greek election where the Greece is the only nation in Europe to elect a seriously left party. Some people I know on the left have issues with Steve's group BAMN though I'm never clear what they are - I think their style is also a factor.

One activist emailed asking about Randi's control of the AFT given that Chicago and Los Angelos are in the hands of reform union leaders, along with other cities. My response was that nationally the NYC Unity Caucus wags the NYSUT and AFT dog. So no matter what happens elsewhere, Randi is in control of the AFT.

But I did report this in May 2010:
Maybe just a drop in the bucket of the UFT dominated AFT, but this message from Detroit's Steve Conn is an early warning sign for Randi Weingarten and the AFT that their collaborationist policies are causing a counter reaction... Ed Notes Online
Steve Conn presents a different level of in your face activism -- he is not polite to Randi like other union leaders who might just roll their eyes. At a demo in Detroit at the AFT convention in 2012, Steve constantly heckled Randi while she tried to speak. Steve is part of  By Any Means Necessary (BAMN) which has run in the past few AFT elections against Randi and her Progressive Caucus, garnering about 5% of the vote.

And when we protested Bill Gates in Seattle at the AFT 2010 convention I believe Steve was right in the middle of it. How much fun will the 2016 AFT convention in Minneapolis turn out to be?

Ed Notes has covered events in Detroit over the years. A quick seach yielded these articles amongst many going back to 2008.
Nov 17, 2008
Steve Conn was an activist in Teamsters Local 688 and Teamsters for a Democratic Union in St.Louis in the in the 1980's. He is now a supporter of the civil rights group BAMM and current candidate for President of the Detroit ... 
Dec 06, 2010
Detroit teacher Steve Conn (above center) spoke to the Peace and Justice Caucus of the American Federation of Teachers on July 10, 2010 (above) during the AFT convention. Conn is now in a runoff against incumbent ...
Mar 21, 2010
Maybe just a drop in the bucket of the UFT dominated AFT, but this message from Detroit's Steve Conn is an early warning sign for Randi Weingarten and the AFT that their collaborationist policies are causing a counter ...
Randi's guy was Randi cheerleader Keith Johnson whose tune changed between 2010 when he led cheers for Bill Gates and 2012 when the union he led has been devastated by the contract Randi helped him accept. Johnson retired and tried to push his hand-chosen candidate but Detroit teachers had enough.

Here is a bulletin from Steve to the members posted on the DFT web site after 800 members met on Sunday, and some press articles on the election.

New DFT President and Executive Board Sworn In [1.21.15]


New DFT President Steve Conn, executive vice president Ivy Bailey, and the executive board members were sworn in yesterday by AFT Michigan President David Hecker.
"I want to salute the marvelous due militancy of Detroit teachers," Conn said. "It's time to take a stand for justice.
"I want to say to the governor, the politicians, and the corporate interests who they work for, we are fed up with the state-sponsored destruction of the Detroit schools."
Conn said he wants to re-incorporate the EAA schools into DPS, end the "obscene standardized testing regimen," and get a union rep in every building, among other goals.
He recalled the speech given by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963 as a situation similar to what Detroit teachers face today and "the fierce urgency of now."

Activist Steve Conn to lead Detroit teachers union


Teacher and activist Steve Conn said he plans to fight for smaller class sizes in his new role as head of the Detroit Federation of Teachers.
Conn, 57, narrowly won the presidency Saturday in a race against union vice president Edna Reaves. He replaces longtime rival Keith Johnson, who backed Reaves and is retiring after six years.
A swearing-in ceremony will be held at 4 p.m. Tuesday in front of the union offices at 7700 Second Avenue. A rally will follow.
Conn, who has run for DFT president about a dozen times before, credits his victory to members being fed up with the "fiasco disaster" that governor-appointed emergency managers have brought to the district over the last six years.
"This is about a struggle for civil rights" in DPS, he said about his new role.

Conn's victory was a blow to Johnson.
"His mantra has never been to work with the other side, the adversary," Johnson said. "His mantra has always been to stand out at the periphery and throw rocks at it and talk about how horrible it is."
Conn received 614 votes in the election. Reaves got 599.
The other people who shared the United for Teachers' Rights slate with Reaves won their races: Ivy Bailey, Michael Schenk and Vida Bonacci were elected vice presidents; Nicole M. Davis was elected recording secretary; and Michelle Broughton was elected treasurer.
Conn has worked as a math teacher in Detroit Public Schools since 1986. He spent most of that time at Cass Technical High School, a position he's leaving because of the new job.
He has also been actively involved for years in the social justice group By Any Means Necessary.

Conn said with some classes as big as 40 to 50 students or more, pushing for smaller classes will be among his top priorities.
DPS has a roughly $170-million deficit. Just last week, it got its fourth emergency manager, Darnell Earley.
The DFT has about 4,000 members.
In 2008, Conn and his wife Heather Miller, who was also a teacher, were fired but then won their jobs back after being accused of leading a protest in May 2007 that led to some middle and high school students being pepper-sprayed and detained by police. The pair sued the district and won a $300,000 judgment.
Contact Ann Zaniewski at 313-222-6594 or azaniewski@freepress.com. Follow her on Twitter: @AnnZaniewski.


2 comments:

  1. (Conn's victory was a blow to Johnson.
    "His mantra has never been to work with the other side, the adversary," Johnson said. "His mantra has always been to stand out at the periphery and throw rocks at it and talk about how horrible it is." ) ---- When the self-interests of those in union leadership overshadow the interests of the working teachers….When the membership is locked out of the decision making…..When the membership is not allowed a dissenting voice within their own union….. When union leaders are no longer accountable to their members….What choice is there except to give up or pick up those rocks? All it took was a rock and steady aim for David to take down Goliath. Teachers have been under attack and it speaks volumes that Detroit's former leader takes issue with a union leader who wants to fight back. It appears that the teachers of Detroit want the rock thrower. Good for them! If only NY teachers would take a stand next election cycle and oust Mulgrew and Unity. Take your ball and go home, Johnson ---it’s clear you’re just a sore loser. Roseanne McCosh

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  2. It's typical of successful guerrilla wars of liberation that the center of power is surrounded and eventually choked off from support. Perhaps that's what we're seeing here with the UFT leadership, the tail that wags the AFT/NYSUT dog and the last of the urban political machines, gradually being surrounded by locals that have tired of their endless betrayals.

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