The morning session is over and we are pre-Gates, but this came in from Leonie Haimson:
Hope its not too late to create a buzz at Seattle…please share!
The most dangerous man in America is taking the stage at the AFT conference in Seattle today:
Watch out, America! You have nothing to lose but your public school system, at the hands of the richest man in the country who, like a spoiled child carelessly playing with toys, breaks one after another.
check it out at
Key debates on educational issues
[I have video of it all so won't go into tremendous detail.]
The most controversial issues on education were up for debate this morning. Reso # 5 on teacher evaluation was supposed to be the most contentious. Randi/Unity prepared carefully. A few weeks ago the Unity delegation met in NY and were told this was the crucial reso and were prepared to manipulate in committee and at the floor debate.
Chicago vs NYC was a key background. Chicago/CORE people were a little taken aback at some of the tactics used at the committee meetings on Thursday. At the main sessions one CORE/CTU teacher after another were the key people standing up to Unity/Progressive Caucus, telling of the experience of being in the belly of the Duncan/Daly beast.
Today on Reso 5 the mics were packed with Progressive Caucus people until Randi pulled the democracy issue and "allowed" 2 people - CTUers it turned out - to speak against some of the language that they said opened up teachers to attacks. But then the question was called as we always see in NYC.
Chicago and NYC cooperate
On the closing schools reso we saw a different scenario. A UFTer/Unity got up to amend the reso and everything she said was on the mark. The next speaker was from Chicago/CORE - local 1 - and thanked local 2 for working with them to strengthen the reso. Both speeches were very powerful.
I spoke to CORE people after and apparently there were some intense negotiations between the two big powerhouse locals to find some common ground. And they did.
What is playing out here is a baptism of the Chicago group just a few days after taking power in the union. I have been very impressed with the number of quality people. One after another you speak to are articulate and educated on so many issues. CORE clearly has done a great job of educating, organizing and mobilizing. In two years at Detroit they will be prepared.
But that won't stop Randi from trying to coopt them, something she is so good at doing.
To be continued
Everyone wants part of the GEM banner - well, not everyone
Speaking of co-opting. New Action's Jonathan Halabi is here. Now don't get into a snit. New Action did not get delegate positions. He is here as college prof delegate - PSC. As some of you know he is not my favorite person for his constant ICE bashing - he was even overheard doing it in a bar the other night. You know, "the ICE opposes everything mantra" - like mayoral control, merit pay, measuring teachers by data - stuff like that. Stuff that the UFT has supported.
When there was discussion about the Gates protest today and people talked about holding up the GEM banner, there are reports Halabi balked, saying GEM was sectarian or something like that. Ridiculous. Though GEM has many ICE people in it, it has attracted people from every active group in the UFT. Not New Action of course. GEM has not been active within the UFT very much and is not a caucus, one of the reasons so many ICE people who feel there is a need for a broader movement than just a caucus have jumped on board. New Action on the other hand sticks to the narrowest of issues and does little more than function as a completely owned subsidiary of Unity.
In defense of ICE/GEM
Pretty ironic that Lisa North and Gloria Brandman, two key ICE people have been amongst the leaders of the the AFT P&J committee which Halabi has been hanging around. And they have been on the UFT Peace and Justice Committee. And the UFTers to stop the war.
Other ICEer/GEMers: Fiorillo is one of most respected voices out there. As is John Lawhead. Julie Woodward has been relentless in holding the UFT's feet to the fire. Arthur Goldstein is chapter leader of the second largest school in the city and is one of the leading voices in defense of teachers with his columns at Gotham Schools. Eterno and Kaufman have been enormously respected for their strength and knowledge of the contract. And John Elfrank chapter leader of Murray Bergtraum. And the retirees: Ellen Fox, Loretta and Gene Prisco, Vera Pavone who co-wrote the review of the Kahlenberg book with me - and she did most of the work. It's late. I'm sure I'm forgetting people. Jeez! The nerve to disparage the work of these people.
How else have we been able to build alliances with just about every group in the city - teachers and community activists? From NYCORE to Teachers Unite to TJC. And parent groups around the city. People I meet here from all over the nation know our work and want to stay in touch. Ed Notes received over 2000 hits in the last 3 days alone.
We have links nationwide. Chicago CORE are allies and we've been spending time with them. Karen Lewis know our work. And the Washington DC crew with Candi Peterson and Nathan Saunders who are here. Detroit called us when they were taking action. LA people are in touch. We linked to a group in Philly on this trip. Now, quick - name New Action activists who have done anything close to this work.
Who do they call? GEM
Halabi may carp about ICE and GEM but he and New Action have been invisible while GEM/ICEers have been at numerous charter school co-location and school closing meetings supporting teachers and parents and building alliances. When they need support they call us. And we have been there for them.
Well, anyway, given all this, today he impressed me - for about 2 minutes. He got up to speak against a reso that everyone supported. It had language on credit recovery and some other issues and he was nervous but extremely articulate. I will get the video up when I can (I am very backed up on the videos). What he said is important to us in NYC.
And he did put up a very good piece critical of Weingarten on the first convention day.
AFT Convention in Seattle Day 1
Maybe there's some hope for some people in New Action. I respect and like New Action's Arjun Janah who today wrote a great poem about Bill Gates which I will post.
I was hanging with Stephen Sawchuk today and we had some good chats. I really didn't know his work 'till this week but I will take a closer look.
He was chosen to do a private interview with Gates post-speech. We talked about what he would ask and I am looking forward to seeing what he writes. Meanwhile follow his posts at: http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/teacherbeat/
I got to watch his computer while he went to meet with Gates. Maybe next time we switch and I interview Gates- hear that Janet Bass (who as AFT press chief was extremely gracious throughout the week- in case you didn't know I am here as press for The Wave - I think there is a Rockaway somewhere in the Pacific Northwest).
While I was baby sitting his computer I ended up in the midst of what looked suspiciously like a Unity Caucus meeting about voting in the AFT elections. I wasn't asked to leave as almost everyone was gracious - only Sandi March was nasty - but what do you expect? I was extremely pleased when Alan Lubin came over to say hello. Alan is one of the most respected union officials I have met. He was once Dist 32 rep and then Brooklyn boro chief. He is VP of NYSUT for quite a while. I had heard he was ill but he looked great. He just retired. No matter how much we all disagreed politically, Alan was always a mensch, never making things personal, always with a quip. It is funny but many of the old guard Unity people do not look at this as war. But I find many of the Unity relative newbies are rabid.
From two observers, one of them associated with the Chicago Teachers Union Twitter feed on Gates appearance at AFT convention