Sunday, May 3, 2009

Randi and Rhee in DC, A Tale of Skuldugery as Unity Caucus Tactics Go National

Did the AFT and Rhee conspire to remove a critic of a possible sell-out?

Follow the trail but don't forget where you left the crumbs.

NYC Educator posted a guest column from Candi Peterson, whose Washington Teacher blog has been providing us with information on the Michelle Rhee vs. DC teachers battle. Union General VP Nathan Saunders, who has raised questions about the role the AFT (and by association, Randi Weingarten) was playing in the DC/Rhee/union struggle, was sent packing back to the classroom after President George Parker refused to sign his paperwork certifying him as a union official. But we in NYC know all about these games. We can do seminars for the rest of the nation.

The refusal of Pres Parker to sign Saunder's paperwork is just a way if removing potential opposition to what is coming down between Randi and Rhee.

I'll get back to that in a minute.

I really had to laugh on the night of the famous UFT wine and cheese party November 25 to undercut the ATR rally (see the two-part video, The Video the UFT Doesn't Want You To See: The ATR Rally and James Eterno's account of the gag rule that resulted at the ICE blog.)

On the way up to Tweed, Randi approached me and said, "Norman, you should really give me that video. People are very upset." Of course "they" are upset. The video caught them red-handed. I said that I didn't take her tantrum directed at me at the wine and cheese fest personally and she should feel free to use me as a scapegoat anytime. "I won't be around that long," she said. "I have to deal with Michelle Rhee." I laughed. Out loud. Right, Randi. Just like you dealt with Joel.

We've been following the story since Randi got involved and I have to say, we've been right on the money. On December 4th, 2008 I posted this story after reading Candi's blog: Weingarten to Meet with Washington TU Exec Bd Tonight

In addition to dealing with Michelle Rhee, the Washington TU has internal issues with what looks like a top-down leadership that acts without input of the members. But the union does seem to have people on the Exec Bd who will raise issues with the leadership, something the UFT has made sure cannot occur in NYC.

Maybe that will be
Randi's advice to WTU leader George Parker who has failed to hold a representative assembly meeting in September, October or November.

Keep up the good work. Now just get those people who criticize you off the Exec Bd and all will be well.


Continuing with our Dec. 4th piece:

Randi will come on all militant at this meeting. Maybe even throw a few curse words around about Rhee. My message to the rank and file of the WTU is: make no mistake about it. The AFT is not your unequivocal advocate in the war with Rhee, who has so much support from politicians and the business community which Randi so much wants to court. So out and out support for the WTU will not be in the cards, though Randi's speeches internally will make it look that way. We have learned here in New York to watch what she does, not what she says.

The AFT, which is after all controlled by the UFT – Ed Notes has written extensively on this tail wagging the dog situation – wants to be viewed as "ed reform" friendly. Witness recent quotes from Leo Casey about not being wedded to ideology. They are "realists." Translated that means the winds of reform are calling for merit pay, measuring teacher quality by standardized tests, developing flexibility about tenure, having the union play a role in removing teachers, etc.

This mindset has existed since the early 80's when Al Shanker shifted the role of the union (without any internal discussion, of course) into this reform camp in exchange for a seat at the reform table even when "reform" has been narrowly defined by the enemies of teacher unions. So don't blame Randi for instituting this policy. In fact she is even better than Shanker at this stuff because she play the
I feel your pain role so well.

And that is exactly what she will do at the WTU meeting. But behind the scenes she will urge a deal with Rhee in which teachers will lose half a loaf and then proclaim that a victory. That is what Rhee is after. She and Joel Klein put outrageous demands on the table and then Randi gives them part of what they want with lots of gaps left open for them to get the rest over time. What Randi will get is a bribe for teachers to give up their rights by getting them money, some of it for longer days and years. This is a good short term investment in the world of Rhee who full well knows with the absolute power to hire and fire, she can make sure few teachers will reach the higher salaries promised.

Only democratic elements within the WTU can put roadblocks in the way of the almost unstoppable events set in motion when your own union stops functioning as your advocate but shifts to the role of mediator between people like Rhee and Klein and the rank and file.

Fighting a frontal assault and a rear guard action from the likes of Randi Weingarten and justifiers like Leo Casey can easily turn into a lose-lose proposition.

It is not too soon to start to scream.

First Randi had to get Rhee to tone down her anti-teacher act. "Michelle, I can't hand you what you want as long as you come off so hostile-like." I could just see the UFT/AFT makeover of Rhee (Paul Moore on a "Kindler, Gentler" Rhee). Note how the toning down came as Randi got involved. Even the vicious Rhee knew a collaborating partner when she saw her.

Union VP Nathan Saunders left a comment on April 21 at ed notes after this about the choise of pro-privatizing mediator Kurt Schmoke:

Weingarten Agreement to Schmoke as Mediator Means DC Teachers About to be Screwed
(The choice of Kurt Schmoke as "mediator" which was accepted by Randi is a step towards a major sellout of DC teachers.)

Saunders wrote:
We got less than 1 hour to read a complicated document billed as the WTU contract proposal which is now the basis of a $750,0000 grant/loan from the AFT Executive Council which the WTU Executive board did not ask for in the first place. The WTU Executive Board questioned the checks only to be informed AFT is giving us the money so we should not worry about it. At a rescheduled meeting which I was not in attendance, the WTU Executive Board passed a motion after the fact but that was to a large extent- a rubber stamp. I am concerned that issues associated with our local are from our members and not from AFT central headquarters. I have cautioned our executive board about willy nilly agreeing to matters they don't fully understand. Some are so eager to please they say "yes I will do it" before they understand what rights and responsibilities they are forfeiting.

This document is the foundation for the "good for children fair for teachers" campaign. This story needs to be thoroughly investigated. Are you telling me that Randi did the same thing in NY and the members did not actually know what was in the contract until much later? Is that how you got involved in the mutual consent, ATR, rubber room fiasco? I am so disappointed.

Nathan A. Saunders
General Vice President
Washington Teachers' Union

It looked like Saunders was getting the message of how Randi operated in NYC and could become a thorn in the side of a deal.

Gary Imhoff of DCWATCH reported the next act in the drama this week

Iris Toyer, below, writes about the situation of Nathan Saunders, the general vice president of the Washington Teachers Union. Saunders has been reassigned from his union duties back to classroom duties by Vice Chancellor Kaya Henderson because of what had been an unspecified problem with his papers applying for a routine leave of absence from DC Public Schools to serve as a union official. There has been much speculation about what that problem was, but the question has now been settled by Candi Peterson.

Tonight, Peterson has published on her blog, The Washington Teacher, an exchange of E-mails between Saunders and George Parker, the WTU's president ( It turns out that Parker, who has been feuding with Saunders, has discredited himself by refusing to sign Saunders' leave papers, giving his approval for the leave.

In his E-mail, Parker taunts Saunders by laughably claiming to be too busy to “research” the application, and by claiming that he has to consult with the union's attorney before signing. Kaya Henderson's actions, meanwhile, are just as disreputable as Parker's. DCPS knows full well that Saunders is a duly elected union official and is entitled to a routine leave of absence to serve in his union capacity.

There is no doubt about that, but Henderson is exploiting Parker's meanness and underhandedness in order to keep Saunders from serving the union. Henderson is acting in bad faith. Union members and newly named WTU-DCPS contract mediator Kurt Schmoke would be foolish if they believed that DCPS, which treats union officials with such disrespect, has any intention of negotiating with the union in good faith.

DCPS Orders Nathan Saunders to Classroom So As Not to Perform Union Duties
Iris J. Toyer

A recent flurry of E-mails alerted many of us that Nathan Saunders, Vice President of the Washington Teachers Union, had been ordered back to the classroom or face termination. The dispute seems to stem from the submission or lack thereof of a request for a continued leave of absence while serving as a paid elected union official. I am neither a union member nor a teacher. I believe that how our government treats duly elected representatives of our workers sheds a bright light on how employees will be treated. How this particular dispute will be resolved is anyone's guess.

What readers of themail should know is that the Rhee administration has ordered the WTU Vice President back to the classroom. He is paid handsomely by the WTU to represent the membership.

There seemed to be questions as to whether or not WTU officials are in fact employees of DCPS. In speaking with Mr. Saunders, I learned that paid members of the WTU do not come off of DCPS' payroll. They continue to earn leave and years toward their service, and when their term is over they return to the classroom. If I remember correctly, they continue to collect their DCPS salary and WTU pays them the difference between what DCPS pays them and the higher WTU salary, and also reimburses DCPS (at least that is supposed to happen). It would be so much cleaner if WTU paid the entire salary in the beginning.

Nathan and one other WTU official did not collect their salaries from DCPS. His point is you cannot serve two masters.

Apparently the paperwork that is now being discussed by Kaya Henderson, Deputy Chancellor, is a new process. Formerly union employees used the same request for a leave of absence that an employee who is going on a sabbatical or on extended travel, etc., would use. I am not sure why Nathan was not informed of the change or who should have informed him.

The fact remains that he is a duly elected member of the WTU executive team and will continue to be so. This action interferes with that relationship, which might be the intended purpose. I think union members ought to ask themselves: if they do it to Saunders in the morning, what's to stop them from doing it to me in the evening?

Candi Peterson wrote:
While it pains me to post negative information about my union local, I am more pained about the inaction from the American Federation of Teachers especially given that our parent organization has a contract with us. Several members of the Washington Teachers’ Union recently appealed to AFT President Randi Weingarten for assistance in getting our general vice president back to work representing teachers. Several members even recommended that mediation was necessary in a series of emails. Randi did report that while she did inquire about what was happening with Saunders leave of absence, presently she is preoccupied dealing with cases involving the swine flu virus.

Swine flu? You figure out the swine angle as I remind you of my Dec. 4th post:
Maybe that will be Randi's advice to WTU leader George Parker who has failed to hold a representative assembly meeting in September, October or November.

Keep up the good work. Now just get those people who criticize you off the Exec Bd and all will be well.

Here is a challenge to Randi Weingarten and the AFT hit men and women who might take issue with this tale of conspiracy: demand Saunders' immediate reinstatement as a union official.

I wouldn't hold my breath.

How Randi Sells Out DC Teachers: A Concrete ExampleWeingarten

Rotherham on Weingarten: Two Peas in a Pod


Paul Moore said...

You called it Norm. Terms of the sellout are nearly settled. They are ready to roll in DC. Nathan Saunders has been kneecapped and and dissident members of the WTU are being nuetralized. Weingarten is going to get in bed with Broad and Gates.

For sheer entertainment value read the last paragraph and Jay Mathews feigned surprise at the Weingarten-Rhee Axis.

Jeff Canady said...

AFT is doing some very questionable things. It's not going unnoticed. Thank's for the head's up.