Thursday, March 20, 2008

Weingarten May Soon Hold N.Y., National Union Jobs

Elizabeth Green wrote in the NY Sun.

Ms. Weingarten has enjoyed broad popularity inside the UFT, consistently winning elections by a landslide. A group of teachers that organizes against her, the Independent Community of Educators, has repeatedly condemned some of Ms. Weingarten's more unconventional positions, such as her support for performance-based pay for teachers, her support for charter schools, and her new partnership with a charter school operator that bans traditional teacher tenure, Green Dot. The group greeted her announcement, delivered to the union's executive board and legislative body last week, with disgust. "The UFT deserves a full-time president," a UFT chapter leader at Jamaica High School who is a member of ICE, James Eterno, said.

Are you sure about that, James? We've had one, supposedly, for the past 10 years. Where has that gotten us? Let's try for 10 years with Randi as a part-time President. Think it's impossible for Weingarten to attempt to break Shanker's 11 year record? Green writes [emphasis mine]:

Ms. Weingarten said holding both jobs would be the only fair way to ensure the smoothness of her departure from the UFT. An AFT president starts her term the day after being elected, she pointed out, arguing that such abruptness would prevent any smooth transition out of the UFT. "If this happens, I would do both for an uncertain time period," she said [how about a decade?]. The period would probably end when Ms. Weingarten felt a qualified successor [the search is on for another lawyer] had emerged to take her place at the UFT. Three have emerged as top contenders: two UFT vice presidents, Michael Mulgrew and Michelle Bodden, and the New York State United Teachers vice president, Maria Neira.

What Abruptness? Everyone knew for the past 3 or 4 years Randi was becoming AFT president this July. So if there was any intent to pass on power to anyone, a clear cut successor would have been chosen and groomed, as Shanker did with Feldman and Feldman did with Weingarten (who was designated at least 5 years before she actually took over.)

If you read our 2 part series on Weingarten's succession (see link on the sidebar), you will see the candidates mentioned (there were 6 at that time and expect more names to surface) include a white, a black and a Hispanic to keep all constituencies in Unity Caucus (the membership is irrelevant in all this). None of them are viewed as serious candidates capable of filling Weingarten's shoes, not as much due to their inabilities, but because Weingarten has assured the existence of a divide and conquer strategy by not putting a clear successor in place. Imagine as people begin to line up as near to the potential throne as they can, with supporters of each jockeying for positions within Unity and even going beyond into the rank and file, and heavens forbid, some people in the opposition, playing the "I'll be a different type of leader" card.

Expect Weingarten to play them off against each other. When Feldman handed her the reigns of power, she moved to edge out those Feldman supporters who did not kiss the ring. She cannot risk the same happening to her.

Remember, the entire power in the AFT resides in the UFT, and ultimately, Unity Caucus – control the caucus and control the world.

Mulgrew, who came out of nowhere from a high school chapter leader to near the top of the heap in a very short time, is mentioned as the person with the power game to run the union. But people see him as a bit rough at the edges, in more of a role to control the faithful while Weingarten races around, functioning like Tom Pappas did for Feldman and Weingarten (don't think the Randi/Tom relationship was always smooth either.) The threat to Weingarten is that Mulgrew moves behind the scenes to build an internal support system that would make him the obvious choice. Then Weingarten would face pressure to make it official.

If Bodden were truly a potential successor, she would have been given responsibilities to prepare her for the role. Neira has played little of a public leadership role to date.

So my guess is this is all about setting Randi up to run in 2010 because if she didn't groom someone by now when she knew she was leaving, why would she at this time when she won't be around to ease the transition?

A perfect example would be the coalition of groups the union worked with to put together the rally. Much is based on the personal relationships with Randi. If they don't deal directly with Weingarten, the people they do deal with in the UFT are basically gofers and are not enabled to make any real decisions. Thus, the entire political house of cards Weingarten has built, will come down without her hand being on the till. And don't think people aren't worried. If she had put in a strong successor, that person would have been picking up the relationships and assuring a smooth succession.

Soon we will be hearing how the fiscal crisis requires an experienced hand at the helm and that hand must be Weingarten's, even if it has to reach from Washington.

Of course, all of the above it total speculation on my part from a distant galaxy, so take it all with a grain of salt.

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