Monday, August 1, 2016

#AFT100, #AFT16 Takeaway Part 1 - Randi's Brain - Co-opting Social Justice Wing of the AFT: Did LATU and CTU Fall in Line?

All of AFT President Randi Weingarten's political skills were on display over the 4 days of the AFT convention in Minneapolis (July 18-21). My immediate takeaway is that Randi is in tighter control of the AFT than ever.

Did Randi surround and subsume potential future opposition in the AFT that might have come from social justice groups like BATS, UCORE or a basically absent NYSUT Caucus, Stronger Together (how interesting that Hillary has used that exact term in her campaign)?

Or did the social justice groups force Randi to be inclusive of their agenda?

One thing was clear: social justice was front and center at the AFT, led by Randi and other Unity people like Leroy Barr. On the surface she outflanked the social justice caucuses tied to UCORE. And coming home on a plane full of Unity, most of them black, got me to start thinking more deeply about MORE's claims to be THE Social Justice Caucus of the UFT. Well we do believe the essence of a SJ caucus is a democratic, bottom up union which Unity certainly isn't. And based on some conversations with rank and filers from Chicago there were igns that the CTU may be drifting away from bottom up.

Has Randi NACed UCORE, Stronger Together and the BATS?

James Eterno and I have a joke - we call it being NACed or NAC-a-Sized - what Randi did with and to New Action beginning after the 2001 elections by offering them a seat at the table in exchange for their not running against her for UFT president. This was Randi at her most cynical -- buy off the leading opposition party with guaranteed Ex Bd positions and jobs.

Randi broke new ground when she took over the UFT

The old Shanker/Feldman leadership viewed the opposition as left wing enemies and openly mocked or ignored them. Randi takes the opposite approach - she invites potential critics into the tent. And it works.

I know personally -- when I began Ed Notes in 1997 I was invited into the tent -- and even though I didn't take the offer I also was careful not to be too critical of Randi because she led me to believe I had her ear and possible support on some of my ideas, thus muting my voice on certain levels for 4 years. Randi was so good at this I saw it happen to so many others -- a phone call or an email and even money from Randi gave them hope there could be change and it took years of bearing her duplicity before the light came on.

Recently I was at a dinner where a parent leader who had been associated with Randi over the years publicly stated, "Norm always told me not to trust Randi. He was right."

Mulgrew has no skill or seeming interest in doing the same as Randi, which I sort of like him for - he's not as phony, but is a major chink in Randi's modus operendi and why I believe he will never be AFT president (Mary Cathryn Ricker is a Randi clone). If Randi were still running the UFT (which she is in many ways) she would have done whatever it took to keep New Action from leaving the cover of Unity and running with MORE and MORE would still be shut out of the high schools. Mulgrew didn't even try. (The plan we originally laid out was to try to win the high schools even without New Action - a 2500-3000 HS vote or bust campaign which if MORE had executed a deeper penetration of the high schools would have worked.)

We saw at the AFT convention signs of Randi's NAC-a-size strategy in operation as she wooed Chicago and LA leadership and gave BATS support - even Mulgrew joined in in wooing Chicago leadership by leading the convention in signing happy birthday to Karen Lewis - while using duplicity on Stronger Together on an opt-out reso.

Why didn't Chicago and LA push for a strong opt-out reso or bring anything to the floor or committee meetings?

In Part 2 I'll get into details on Randi's NAC-a-sizing moves in Philly, Chicago, LA and in NYSUT - and I also believe she would try to do the same to MORE if she could - and maybe behind the scenes we will begin to see that happen -- and I also believe there is a core in MORE that might be susceptible.

In the meantime, one person who will not be subsumed into Randi's orbit or become NAC-a-sized is Jia Lee.

Jia, at MORE blog, points to Randi's manipulation during the convention on a number of issues:

AFT July 2016- Observations of a Rank and File Member
In this excerpt Jia nails Randi/Unity and crew showing how they subvert voices by obfuscation, parliamentary maneuvers and co-optation.
At this year’s AFT convention, at the convening of the Educational Issues Committee, something disturbing occurred. Almost everyone knows that NYSUT (our state union) passed Stronger Together’s (ST caucus)  proposed resolution on opt out called I-Refuse at last year’s state-wide convention. A version of this was prepared by a committee within NYSUT for the AFT convention. It was printed in the resolutions packet on the first day of the AFT.

Just moments before raising the resolution, Karen Magee, our NYSUT president pulled out a substitute resolution that was entirely different from the original. Even the title was changed from “Support the I-Refuse Movement to Oppose High Stakes Testing” to “End the Misuse of Testing and Support Teacher and Parent Rights.” In effect, all of the strong and actionable resolves of the former resolution were removed and in its place was a much diluted version that upheld standardized tests as useful when not misused and supported the rights of parents to opt their children out of the tests and for teachers to explain these rights without fear of penalty. It did not support teachers as agents of change as the I-Refuse resolution did. Jilted, fellow NYSUT members of the ST caucus objected to the substitution which was overruled. The Unity stronghold had prepared for this, keeping the ST members in the dark. The substitute resolution passed.


  1. When is the start date for teachers to reap the benefits of Randi's numerous political machinations?

    Abigail Shure

    1. On the first of Never...

  2. As a retired Philadelphia teacher I followed Randi's actions at the DNC closely. She spoke for three minutes Monday night at the DNC and made no mention that Philadelphia teachers have been without a contract for four years (meaning no raises including step increases). At a panel I attended, a reporter asked her directly about this and she did not respond, (Instead Lily Eskelsen Garcia came to her rescue and launched into a rapturous speech about ESSA.)

    At an appearance before the right-wing American Enterprise Institute last year, Randi was very much on the defensive against the social justice wing of the AFT. Contrast what I wrote about last years AFT convention with what was written above:

  3. Very interesting. I just read an article in the NY Times about Lee Saunders, head of the AFSCME (7/30/2016-paper edition). Mr. Saunders does not want to make "the powers that be...too uncomfortable". Perhaps this is Randi's attitude. I would argue, that in an anti-establishment year, this is not the strongest position. Not only will the rank and file be angry, but the "powers that be" will have no incentive to appease the union.

    Also an interesting letter in this Sunday's NY Times- Sunday Review section- responses to Diane Ravitch's opinion piece--from Kathleen Elvin. Elvin is very critical of the English Common Core Regents. Perhaps the tide is turning?

    1. I read that Lee Saunders piece. Sounds just like Randi - he gives opponents positions etc but sounds like it is not democracy. He claims bottom up but reality of autocratically run unions is they can't afford to give up power at the bottom. But as the article said you can't mobilize people if you don't except in unusual circumstances.

  4. UCORE= we want to have a front group for labor notes/leftist groups that pretend to be bottom up, but are really top down. Whatever the leadership (ellen, samantha, Michelle) says goes, any ideas members come up with must fit into their agenda

    BATS- We're everywhere and anywhere, but we have no real purpose other than to exist on fb. We formed a caucus and then begged lilly and randi for support.
    Stronger Together= Let's make resolutions together, occasionally we'll send an email out, propose a resolution, and have a one hour caucus meeting a year. Photo-ops with leroy!

    CTU/UTLA- We "need" randi, so whatever she says we do, social justice= a couple of statements here and there, but its business as usual. our contracts get worse, mass school closings, but keep on writing articles about us. Backroomdeals is social jsutcie unionism

    MORE- scared of actually winning, some in MORE prefer to only to talk to the choir rather than doing real organizing or talk to people in their schools who may nota agree with them

    New Action- We have no one in the schools, NO ONE, but want to make sure we keep our "brand". We can work with Randi, Mike, lets fight for small change and if we dont win, we'l, write a leaflet

  5. Scared of actually winning? I worked my ass off to win, along with a large group of MORE members who were focused and disciplined. I was there and you were not. Our modest but significant victory, however you may view it, was not an accident.

    Your characterizations are not only strawmen, but also desperate and juvenile. More importantly, they are counter-productive for all.

  6. Responding to Anonymous 7:04 am, you are defeatist and cynical. As a More supporter I want to know if we really needed New action? They were with the Unity slugs for like 19 years. Can new action be trusted? What if they go with unity again?

    1. 7:04 am is pretty much on the mark. No hope.

  7. Of course getting the exec board seats is not an accident. They were handed to you by New Action. It's great when a mercenary decides you made the best offer. In this case two board seats. Btw, what's the deal with you and straw men? Did a scarecrow fall on you or something?

    1. I regret you are unfamiliar with fundamental logical fallacy concepts. It's ironic, what with it being your sole source of argument.

  8. Fundamental logical fallacy blah blah blah. If you write like that it must be a real hoot to have a conversation with you. You didn't address the real point. You have the exec board seats due to a mercenary flip flop ala jd2718...New Action. Your "mandate" is to keep your new (action) best buds happy for three more years. Btw... the comment section on your blog is dull compared to this one. A lot of self congratulatory blah blah blah.

    1. I'm out my brother. If you can ever muster anything that merits a response you know where I am.

  9. NYC Educator- I'd like to hear a substantive response to what anonymous has alleged.

  10. This is crazy! Unity trolls are taking over all of the blogs. The neighborhood ain't the same anymore. I hope you guys control your classes better than you control your blogs. It wouldn't be so bad except that they make good points. I hate them so much.


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