Saturday, June 28, 2008

Substance Response to AFT's Janet Bass

Previous posts on AFT censorship here and here.
Read Alexander Russo's take at the Chicago District299 blog.

Watch the sidebar where we will keep a running account of the story.

In a message dated 6/26/08 8:41:40 AM, writes:
AFT will not be able to give your organization press credentials. We only provide credentials to legitimate news organizations.



The American Federation of Teachers has not been authorized to determine in the United States today what does or does not constitute "legitimate news organizations."

It's been more than two days since you sent me the silly and unprofessional response to my request for Substance press credentials quoted above.

I asked you to tell me how you (or AFT) determines what constitutes a "legitimate news organization" and to date I have not received your response.

Until you provide me with that information, I can't even begin to know how to respond to those two Orwellian sentences you e-mailed to me on June 26 at 8:41 AM. Please do so immediately, so that we can provide you with any information necessary to assuage your prejudices and assure that our staff can cover the upcoming AFT convention in Chicago with the same rights as all other members of the press.

My preference will be to have this matter resolved quickly, so that I could send you the list of the names of the people we will have covering the convention. However, if you have chosen an alternate route (as seems to be the case), we will have to discuss this further, in any number of contexts.

George N. Schmidt
Editor, Substance


  1. Dear Ms Bass,

    I am a UFT member and I have been a subscriber to the Substance Newspaper for some years now. I have found it's reporting to be well documented and its primary source coverage of the corporate reform/privatization of Chicago schools to be a wake up call for all of us in large urban school systems. I urge you to allow Substance the usual press access to cover the AFT Convention this July.

    I know George Schmidt, Editor in Chief of Substance, to be a retired CTU member and former union staffer under the previous administration. He is a tireless advocate for teachers, unions, decent schools, civil and human rights and the working class of Chicago. He has also been a tireless agitator and critic of NCLB and misleadership of the CTU and AFT for many years. Agree or disagree, Substance is an important voice for educators, parents, students and labor's renewal.

    If labor leaders restricts the freedom of the press in our own house, on what grounds can we oppose the corporate takeover of our airwaves and print media in our nation at large? What basis does the AFT have to defend freedom of the press and the rights of labor overseas when right here in our own house the AFT leadership mimics the censorship tactics of the Bush/Cheney/Rove regime?

    School is out but rather than relax these next few days I will be writing to Sweeny and Trumka, the International Labor Communications Association, Reg Weaver of the NEA, Herman Benson of the Association for Union Democracy, Labor Notes, The New Labor Forum, and whomever else may question the wisdom of such censorship.

    I am only one voice but I believe that there are many within the house of labor in leadership and among the rank and file, that still value freedom of the press. Furthermore it is my hope that they share my belief that the actions of the AFT leadership in barring Substance from the convention reflects poorly on the values for which the Labor movement has fought for.

    If the AFT leadership presses forward with this foolhardy and ultimately self destructive refusal to admit Substance reporters to the AFT convention I think you may rest assured that the matter will find its way into the labor and progressive outlets that thankfully remain free of the self serving censorship that has descended over the AFT.

    I know that this is not a matter over which you as an individual exercise control yet I urge you as a person of conscience to reflect on your own role as a facilitator, a participant in this heinous restriction of freedom of the press. I doubt this was your intent when you came to work for a labor union, but if I am mistaken and you really don't care one way or the other, may I respectfully suggest that there are far more lucrative positions for the ethically challenged at the White House and in the corporate world.


    Sean Ahern

  2. I agree, Substance is as legitimate as EdNotes.

    Here's an idea, Norm can rip his press pass in half and give a piece to Substance. You guys can each try and get in with that.

  3. I agree too. That both Substance and EdNotes are more legitimate than that Unity rag, the NY Teacher.

  4. Sean, your letter was excellent.

    I wrote a very short one to those people, but it's interesting that we ended up on more or less on the same page. My last paragraph went:

    "It's a given that the country has gone fascist, but with the sharp dissatisfaction with the Bush regime in the past year, one no longer expects this kind of ideology to CONTINUE to show up in the middle of a national labor union. Shame on you people."


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