Thursday, July 22, 2010

CORE and Unity on Charter Schools - Where the Rubber Meets the Road

Chicago-based Lee Sustar, who I got to hang with at the press table at the AFT convention, does a penetrating analysis of the AFT convention – and links to reports from George Schmidt's Substance, Ed Notes and Leonie's HufPost article on Bill Gates, "The Most Dangerous Man in America".

Lee's piece is long but well worth reading. Lee writes for the Socialist Worker, associated with ISO (International Socialist Organization). We have been working closely with a number of ISO teachers here in NYC.

Lee goes beyond the Bill Gates issue and touches on the major Weingarten sell-outs in Colorado and beyond. This is information every single one of you should share with every single colleague in your school and beyond. Just send them a link to this ed notes post.

Before you delve into it, I want to highlight the area that I have been emphasizing – the flash points between the two big caucuses - Chicago's CORE and New York's Unity.

Lee writes:

While not formally part of the opposition--CTU President Karen Lewis joined the union's ruling Progressive Caucus and won election as an AFT vice president--there were frictions between the Chicago delegation and Weingarten's home union local, the United Federation of Teachers in New York City.

The main disagreements were over convention resolutions on charter schools--where the Chicagoans wanted to call for a moratorium on charters as a form of privatization, the New York delegation insisted on restating the AFT's support for charter schools as a matter of school choice, and prevailed.

For the moment, the debate over charters, teacher evaluation and merit pay may fade to the background as the Chicago teachers gear up to fight the threat of layoffs. But the AFT's pursuit of partnership even as teachers are under their greatest attack in decades will inevitably lead to a struggle over the future of teacher unionism.

Read the above carefully and connect the dots to the story on the firing of the 10 key teachers at the Merrick Charter School in Queens that were trying to organize for the UFT. This charter school is founded by the head of the NY State Senate Malcolm Smith, who I bet the UFT has endorsed in the past and maybe even is endorsing again - he has no opposition so it is a mute question. The UFT has a press conference today at 1pm on this issue. See our updated post from last night:

Malcolm Smith founded charter school fires UFT teachers- Mulgrew threatens law suit

It seems the UFT would be going wild in Albany over this outrage, calling for Smith's head. But I bet they are too timid to do this. So a law suit is all they can threaten.

So how does this connect, aside from exposing the bankrupt policy of the UFT's total focus on political action?

Chicago/CORE called for an moratorium on charter schools at the AFT convention because they undermine public schools.

The AFTUFT/Unity gang supports charters along with a policy of organizing charter school teachers. How is that working out so far? Chicago people have pointed to how few charters have been organized and also point to how even when they are, there are individual contracts signed, which dilutes the power of a big union. Another bankrupt strategy of the UFT/AFT.

I was asked last night by a parent activist if the UFT had issued a press release or has any notice of the press conference and I said I only knew about it from her.

"Why not," she asked?

"Because they are very nervous these firings will kill off any organizing they are doing as charter school teachers realize the UFT has no real ability to protect them from retaliation. So the UFT is doing a semi-public relations gambit and threatening a law suit which can take a bit of time and do no good to the teachers who were fired." This entire thing can turn out to be a major PR disaster for the UFT/AFT.

The Merrick situation must be sending a chill in a very hot July down the spine of the UFT/AFT strategy because it is in the belly of the beast - with heavy Democratic black politicians associated with the firings. By the way, the charter school is managed by for profit Victory Schools which just hired Michael Duff away from the DOE. Victory also took a pound of flesh from another Malcolm Smith founded school in Rockaway - Peninsula Prep. Rockaway's local paper, The Wave, has been claiming that the closing of Beach Channel HS was related to a land grab by Smith for his charter.

The NY Times did a major front page expose on the Floyd Flake/Smith/Greg Meeks scams a few weeks ago.

Make sure to check out the Resolutions Chicago suggested at the AFT:

Chicago Teachers Union Resolution at AFT Convention

I usually include entire articles here for those too lazy to link or with slow networks. But I'm saving some scrolling space on the blog on the assumption that you all will read every word of Lee's article. There will be a high stakes test to follow.

The wrong partner for our schools

Lee Sustar looks at the implications of the "partnership" between American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten and Microsoft chairman Bill Gates.


  1. Hey Norm,

    Any specifics on the new agreement regarding evaluations and those eleven school this September? NYC was supposed to have a year to figure out the implications and workings of how the new evaluation agreement would be implemented yet it is starting this September for those eleven schools.

    The UFT has not published anything official on its website or on their blog, Edwize. How come?

    Is it true that Casey is going to DC?

    Is it true that Mulgrew is actually clueless and that is why Randi appointed him? She wanted to control local 2?

    I just read an article about that guy Bing (I think). The UFT is supporting one of its own members. Is that smart? According to the article, there are not many union workers living in Bing's area. Why would the UFT put a teacher in a race when the other side can constantly clamor: "He represents the UFT not the people of my district." Who made this decision? I guess Mulgrew. So now Bloomberg has endorsed Bing. And he has lots of money right?

    Do you guys have a political action coordinator or director in NYC? If so, what was he thinking?

    Hey Norm, what happens when politicians stop taking union money and are totally bought off by private interests? Who will labor have in their pocket?

    Oh and Norm. Sorry to be so long winded. Have you read what's going on with pensions across the country? You have that guy Cuomo running for governor. Will the UFT support him? I ask this because there is a slew of info out there that this guy wants to streamline the public workforce and have a constitutional convention. In your constitution, there is language that protects your pension system from being opened and manipulated in any way. If Cuomo gets his way that means they can change your pensions (retirees included). Cut cut cut.

    Ok. Take care Norm.

    A friend from afar!

  2. Hey Friend from Afar,
    Lots of good points. I'm heading out now but will try to get back to them later.

    One thing on the guy from the UFT who is running against Bing. Insiders in the opposition consider him a big joke. A total shill for Unity. Whan Randi made the deal on teacher evals I confronted him and his response: "More important what about health care?" Oy!
    Nice guy with a good speaking voice but clueless in New York.

  3. Norm
    Some of my people in DC are asking why not break away from AFT since they are such sell-outs? AFT has never been an ally for the members of WTU. They knowingly sat back and did nothing while our union president Barbara Bullock stole 5 million dollars from our members. I am curious about your thoughts on the implications of breaking away from the parent organization and the options available to us. You can write me off line if you like.

    BTW Randi Weingarten held her Kangaroo court with her bumpkin vice presidents supposedly doing an investigation and hearing into why we haven't held elections, Parkers efforts to reduce the VP Saunders salary to zero and eject him from elected office. I was a scheduled witness and had trouble getting into the AFT office because I was not on the approved list to enter the AFT building. When I finally gained entrance and was allowed to speak the panel began hollering and screaming stating my comments weren't going to be considered and that all of my comments would be stricken from the record. A court reporter was present to record the comments. Attorneys weren't allowed to present. I think I hit a critical nerve and it was an experience to see how the AFT takes our locals almost one million dollars in dues while thumbing their noses at us. This will only make me more vigilent in the fight for justice. Hope I can bounce some ideas off on you soon.

    Candi Peterson
    AKA The Washington Teacher

  4. Stop and think a minute. Everyone. Mulgrew is groomed by Randi for the position of president of local 2. Say whatever you want about Shanker and Feldman (and there is a lot to say) but they had political acumen and were students of history. Weingarten is a non educator but has a law degree in labor relations and years of experience with negotiations and behind the scenes grooming. Then there is Mulgrew. Get it? Mulgrew is to the UFT what Obama is to liberals. A massive amount of opium. The quell master. The face of "change." Only nothing changes. There is only room for appeasement.

    Saddle up the horses because Mulgrew and thus the UFT are about to get crushed.


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