Sunday, June 21, 2015

EIA's Antonucci on The Growing National Teacher Union Militancy Movement

Something different is happening within the teachers’ unions these days. There are the beginnings of a national militant movement.

It began with the election of Karen Lewis in Chicago, but that did not make the rest inevitable. The Chicago Teachers Union was rare in that it had a long history of leadership changing hands among competing caucuses. Lewis was elected because she united all challengers to win a runoff against the incumbent.

...more militant teacher union leaders will mean significant changes in approach on the largest education policy issues – ESEA, Common Core, teacher evaluations, charter schools, et al. Lip service will end. There will be no joint accountability task forces. Monthly chats with the Secretary of Education will be replaced by sit-ins at his office. ... ..... Educational Intelligence Agency, June 1, 2015
Is there something shaking in the teacher union wind nationally that can challenge the Unity Caucus -- NYC and NYState (under the phony name of  Revive) control of the AFT?

We should have the results of the Newark TU election in a day or 2, where one of MORE's sister groups, NEW Caucus is running Brandon Rippey for president.

An interesting piece from Mike A a few weeks ago, especially since he is coming from the anti-union libertarian right. Mike (and I) is a skeptic and has been about these "movements" in the past. I may not agree with Mike on many issues but I respect his reporting and his analysis. That he is going beyond skepticism in this report makes it worth sharing.
He may be the first ed reporter to detect something shaking in teacher unions. I filled him in on Stronger Together in NYSUT and its potential to shake the AFT tree. And in fact there is a loose confederation of these groups and has been since 2009.

I did think he missed an important angle - the role Stronger Together is beginning to play on the state level and possibly looking to grow nationally. NYC and state Unity dominates the entire mechanism of the AFT, so a statewide opposition has national implications.

I wrote to Mike about the ST issue - see below his post - and he responded that he had originally included some of that but  trying to explain it all in this piece took it too far afield. He had some other interesting things to say, which I will report in in a separate post.

(Bold added is mine).

http://www.eiaonline.com/2015/06/01/the-growing-teacher-union-militancy-movement/

The Growing Teacher Union Militancy Movement

Written By: Mike Antonucci - Jun• 01•15
June 1, 2015

The Growing Teacher Union Militancy Movement. Experience and skepticism are useful tools because there are a lot of people out there trying to sell us something. But occasionally these attributes can become a crutch, and I fear I have reached that point when it comes to trends in elections for union officers.

I have routinely maintained that militant rhetoric is required for challengers for union office. It is almost impossible to oust incumbents by promising more collaboration with management. Come election time, union voters want candidates who fight. That’s why I chose the term “militants” to describe them, though it is not as exact a description as I wish.

I define union “militancy” as primarily opposing existing trends, regaining lost ground, and organizing public demonstrations of discontent. While all sorts of unions use rallies and pickets to make a point, militant demonstrations tend to be less scripted and more visceral.

Where I have let experience guide me is in analysis of what happens after a militant is elected. Once in office, the fire-breather is doused with paperwork, competing interests and inevitable compromises, leaving him vulnerable to the next fire-breather. I once called this “the elusive militant incumbent.”

But I have held on to that notion for too long. Something different is happening within the teachers’ unions these days. There are the beginnings of a national militant movement.

It began with the election of Karen Lewis in Chicago, but that did not make the rest inevitable. The Chicago Teachers Union was rare in that it had a long history of leadership changing hands among competing caucuses. Lewis was elected because she united all challengers to win a runoff against the incumbent.

What was unique this time was the perception elsewhere in the country that Lewis’s victory could be replicated by adopting her fighting stance. This still led to defeat in most places but over time the victories started to mount up, and now they can no longer be viewed in isolation.

United Teachers Los Angeles, Detroit Federation of Teachers, United Educators of San Francisco, Newark Teachers Union, Massachusetts Teachers Association, and perhaps soon the Hawaii State Teachers Association have all chosen militancy over incumbency in recent elections. While these wins were not coordinated by a single coalition, they enforced the belief that the traditional line of union succession could be broken.

Now that they have had some success, these same victors will find themselves thwarted by more establishment unionists further advanced in the hierarchy. Their challenge will be to mimic not only Karen Lewis’s rhetoric, but her ability to unite dissident factions against that establishment.

That’s the tricky part, however. There are substantial differences among the militants, not the least of which is that some are AFT and others are NEA. They also have to resist the pull of the establishment. The perks of union leadership can quickly turn bomb-throwers into pencil-pushers.

Internally it can go one of two ways for NEA and AFT. Either a militant slate arises and supports viable challengers for the national executive offices – who then win – or the militants continue to add sporadic electoral victories, existing as a thorn in the side of the union establishment, but never holding more than regional power.

For the rest of us, more militant teacher union leaders will mean significant changes in approach on the largest education policy issues – ESEA, Common Core, teacher evaluations, charter schools, et al. Lip service will end. There will be no joint accountability task forces. Monthly chats with the Secretary of Education will be replaced by sit-ins at his office.

Whether this will rally politicians and the public to the cause or alienate them into open hostility is the great unknown.

The days when NEA and AFT headquarters can declare a single position on an education issue are over. The orthodoxy is being questioned. It could lead to reformation or inquisition, but the faith will never be the same.

Recent Intercepts. EIA’s daily blog, Intercepts, covered these topics May 27-June 1:
Inside a Union Organizing Drive. Gawking.
Hawaii Challengers File Suit Against New Election. To no avail.
*  The More You Know. Graphic.

Here is my email to Mike, amended.
 
Mike,

You may be the first to recognize something is happening. But of course the belly of the beast is the UFT. I think you miss the potential significance of Stronger Together in NYSUT - a potential challenger to Unity state and city. They have allied with MORE and we have a seat on their steering.
There is a national coalition of these militant caucuses that have been sort of meeting since 2009 with one in Newark this summer. It's called UCORE.
Stronger Together which is many union presidents and delegates is in an alliance with UCORE.
The chances of putting together a challenge to Randi in 2016 may still be premature but ST is becoming a brand name of sorts.
With NYSUT playing such a big role in the AFT, if some of that slips away then Unity NYC might become more isolated and Randi would be in trouble.
 
The next NYSUT election is in 2 years and that may shake things up in time for the 2018 AFT Conv. Watch the other big cities in NY State to see if they are willing to break with Unity and join ST.

A key person to keep an eye on is Beth Dimino local pres from Port Jefferson Station on Long Island.
She's at the end of her career but a real powerhouse and very adept at building alliances across political lines.

This is only one NYC school -- with a former Unity Chapter leader - not a radical or militant but pissed - whose school joined ST en masse - somewhat symbolic but still a sign of trees beginning to shake.

Sixty One Members (and counting) from PS 8X join Stronger Together Caucus

4 comments:

  1. After Randi pushed the 2005 UFT contract she becomes AFT president! That in and of itself it unbelievable. That she's still there surreal. That there has to be a superhuman strategy to get her out, pure science fiction - or is it? All I can say is it's about time. Her puppet Mulgrew needs to go too.

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  2. Where is the militancy in Newark? One school East Side held the line on the EWA agreements. They were hit with turnaround interventions, which are renew light. Their faculty was not going to be gutted. My already designated renew school caved almost immediately. East Side and other Ironbound schools barely experienced the impact of One Newark. The children bearing the burdens of One Newark endure dislocations, lengthy commutes and extended school days. Standardized tests scores have certainly not risen as a result of the manufactured chaos. Teachers are running for the exits not the picket lines.

    Abigail Shure

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  3. Call me petty but I don't see NEA and AFT as competing entities, They are both run by Common Core loving Gates funded career climbers who put themselves ahead of their constituents. Oh and they both seem to like to make the occasional firebrand remark whenever it seems people are asking too many questions.

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    Replies
    1. They are competitive in terms of members and influence. Shanker tried to pull all kinds of end runs around the NEA and they tried to recruit some of us in the 70s. The NYSUT merger was an end run but the NEA barred the door to total Unity-like control by limiting the numbers of members merged unions can send. That is what Mike is talking about -- another end run - Randi wants to lead 4 mil + members not just 1.5, with 40% coming from NY State.
      You need to get a crew from Buffalo to support Stronger Together which in the long run has the capability to create a challenge on the state and national levels.

      Delete

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