Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Digging at the Underbelly of Teacher Unions


The stuff going on in Washington DC with new teachers attacking career teachers for not going along with Michelle Rhee's offer to end job security for more money may just be the war for the future of teacher unions. This is a complex issue that requires more analysis than I'm willing to give it right now. The attacks on DC union Pres. George Parker for sending out a reminder to teachers that they are not required to go into school early are pretty astounding. Check out this blog and some of the comments - a comedy routine can be written. George Carlin, where are you?

The real underbelly of most teacher unions is that they are truly undemocratic. We've seen that in places like our own UFT and in Chicago, where cooperative, collegial, and collaborative unions have gone along with the corporate plan. Are they worried about an attack of youthful Teach for America zombies out to cut the guts from the union? Is this a cadre being egged on by the EEP thought police?

My guess is that the DC (and Denver) scenario will start playing itself out in urban unions, which are mostly AFT. Don't discount Randi Weingarten's nimbleness in making all sides feel she agrees with them. But the long-time prospect for teacher unions to withstand the onslaught from without and within is not looking too well. Oh, the undemocratic leaderships will consolidate power and do what it takes to keep control even if it takes giving them what they want. But the rank and file is looking mighty ill these days. See New York City.

For progressive, career oriented teachers who have a full understanding of what is going on, yet are also opposed to a dictatorial union, there has to be some level of ambivalence.

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