Wednesday, July 14, 2010

CORE Rocks, Unity S_cks! - Part 1

Photo by George Schmidt

I have a lot to write on this topic but won't throw it all at you in one shot. Here is Part 1.

There were a lot of subtexts at the AFT convention in Seattle. Some emphasized the Detroit led BAMN (By Any Means Necessary) slate running against Randi's Progressive/Unity Caucus, but given the overall platform of BAMN and skepticism if not outright hostility of other left activists this is not a long-term building block to challenge Weingarten. I'll do more on the left at the convention and their impact at some other time.

More interesting was the role being played, and that might be played in the future by the newly elected CORE (Caucus of Rank & File Educators), a 2 year plus old caucus in Chicago that won a run-off in the recent elections against the UPC (Unity allied).

No matter where you ran into or listened to CORE members, they issued warnings about the disaster of the ed deform program on a system after 16 years, warnings that mostly went on the deaf ears of Unity and their national clones.

I was sitting with a national reporter at the press table and he assumed that the CORE leadership, based on their militancy in defense of teachers would naturally align with BAMN. Thus, he was somewhat surprised when new Chicago TU President Karen Lewis ran on Randi's Progressive Caucus platform as a VP while other CTU delegates ran with BAMN. One UFT leader asked someone in CORE, "Don't you have caucus discipline?" I guess not.

I explained to the reporter that if Lewis didn't run with Progressive which was destined to win (and did win with 95% of the vote), then Chicago for the first time in history wouldn't have a member of the AFT Executive Board council. To not have Local 1 (the UFT is local 2) as part of the council would be embarrassing for the AFT. Soon after arriving in Seattle, negotiations began between CORE and the Progressive Caucus. Reports surfaced that there were demands that at least 50% of the CTU delegates must join Progressive. CORE balked. In the end I believe 3 joined.

More interesting - when the election results came in, Karen Lewis finished with the second hightest total. Professional Staff Congress' (New York based) Barbara Bowen finished with the highest total. Bowen's caucus defeated the Unity supported caucus many years ago and is considered a left dissident group even though Bowen is in Progressive. At the Progressive Caucus meeting I attended Bowen consistently battled them, often against Leo Casey.

So, what does that say when the two VP's with an agenda that is not in alignment with Randi get the highest votes for VP? I'll let you mull that one over while I work on Part 2.

In the meantime, when it came to the Gates speech/walkout, CORE held a meeting to decide what to do. There was some division. The majority decided to remain in the hall, wear their red CTU hats and sit on their hands as a silent protest against Gates. Those that wanted to walk out were asked to remove their hats so as not to represent the CTU. A very democratic solution. As a matter of fact one of the leading people in the protest was a CORE member.

George Schmidt has a good article on Substance with a reprint of the late Gerald Bracey's comments on Gates and a reprint of Gates' speech. Here is his photo of the CTU delegation (around 145 strong) during the Gates speech. Karen Lewis is on the left in the red skirt.

Many of the members of the Chicago Teachers Union delegation, including President Karen Lewis and Financial Secretary Michael Brunson (above) remained in the hall during the walkout protesting Gates's speech. They then sat silently listening to Gates while delegates from some other union locals, especially New York City, gave Gates a standing ovation even after he promoted charter schools, merit pay, and an end to tenure in his speech (see speech). Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.


  1. Those teachers just gave a standing ovation to their own demise..

  2. Hi Norm:

    Thanks for this piece and it really explains why Karen had to become part of Randi's slate. I encouraged many people to vote for Karen Lewis even if they didn't vote for other members of the Progressive Caucus slate. It is quite interesting that she got the top highest votes. That says it all. I am learning so much about NY Unity from you and NYC Educator blog. What an eye opener this convention was for me.

    In DC, the firings have begun and many more will happen this month. Our standardized test scores went down 4% in elementary in both reading & math. Rhee is lying about increases in middle and high school. They made small progress which balances it out to almost no gains. Word is our Mayors kids school didn't make AYP which is hilarious since he sent them out of boundary. No accountability for Rhee with no progress on testing but teachers will be fired due to this. Where is the accountability? Mayor Fenty and Chancellor Rhee in DC gotta go. If you know any DC residents tell them to vote for Vince Gray for Mayor in the fall.

    Candi in DC
    AKA The Washington Teacher

  3. Norm, you are a biased hack. everyone reading your blog should be aware of that.

    Sure, Karen Lewis is the was James Eterno. [rolleyes]

    It's nice that you enabled comment moderation for your progressive caucus piece to control what responses you get. I would have pointed out that you got treated a lot nicer than how you have treated others.

    A few years ago some Unity members attended a NYCORE meeting to listen (they weren't disruptive). They were constantly called "Unity hacks", "Unity slugs", and "Unity shits" by you and Nick Licarri. ICE's own Joe Powers was chairing the event and he had to keep asking you and Nick to be respectful. Do you remember that?

  4. I believe that Randi's resolution on teacher evaluation will become as dangerous to teachers nationally as the 2005 contract givebacks are to teachers in New York City. I also believe that the opposition emanating out of Chicago will spread to other locals, D.C.,Detroit, L.A., and come back to seriously challenge Randi at the 2012 convention. As one L.A. delegate stated, "those a holes from N.Y. have 800 but, there are more than 3,000 0ther delegates who are tired of N.Y. always runnung things". The delegate from L.A. was also suspicious of Randi's feminist agenda.

  5. For those non believers AFT Prez Randi Weingarten helped to negotiate the DC contract. She along with our Wash. teachers Union President George Parker who refuses to step down ( his term ended 6/30/2010) or hold union elections sold out DC teachers and school personnel. Many of our members believe our contract vote was tampered with as our elections committee was suppose to handle our contract elections and was not allowed to oversee the contract vote as required by our constitution.

    Among the concessions that Weingarten and Parker made are as follows:
    mutual consent, performance based excessing with probationary teachers being fired even with good performance evaluations, merit pay which has yet to be developed and won't happen until 2011, three layoffs will be required to fund these new raises of 20% leaving our members out in the cold, excessed teachers with good performance evaluations who are permanent and don't get picked up by a principal will get a one year extension to work as a sub for 1 year only. They also may be required to work in the Chancellors office. After that they will be fired. The Chancellor will only give buy outs to 9 or less teachers under this contract and no one will get the 20 year early retirement option offered in our contract. Our contract is funded by private foundations including Broad & Eli and get this the contract says there is no requirement by DC schools to pay for the raises. Teachers who retired and worked during the contract period were left out despite a local law that says they must be included.

    I agree the Unity Caucus sucks plain & simple and are true sell-outs like Ms. Randi Weingarten who they support.

    Candi Peterson
    not afraid to leave my real name
    (AKA- The Washington Teacher blogger)

  6. Queens teacher you are on point. These teachers are a laughing stock of idiots.

  7. Unfortunately you are right. But we can't blame teachers outright. Many are uninformed. It's up to Randi to have informed them and she didn't.

  8. Norm, I know that you are a good dues paying member of the progressive caucus. The caucus is a private organization apart from the AFT. If you are going to be a member of the caucus, debate your heart out at the private meetings -and don't write about what takes place there. As a member once a decision has been made you are bound to promote it or resign from the caucus.

  9. I want to take Zahler's place or I will resign. Can I get my 20 bucks back? Maybe I can prorate it. Let's see, one year divided by --- you owe me 19.50. Drop it in the Ed Notes collection box at the next DA.

    Oh, and anon Unity hack - union hacks are people who get paid to be a hack and then screw the members who are paing them.

    As to the John Powers conference attended by all those Unity hacks, I don't remember being disrespectful but if I wasn't I wish I were. You must have been there. I have the list. Vinnie will be over later to see you.

  10. Norm,

    Thank you for all the hard work you do, and thanks also for letting us know about the Unity people that just like to feather their own nests. Unity people went to Seatle using our Union members' money to applaud for the killing of the public schools.

  11. Progressive Caucus'version of the Democrats' "one big tent"represents an effort by the Unity leadership to coopt independent, dissident movements within the AFT. I say this as a member of the ostensibly "progressive" PSC, which is left in rhetoric, but abides by the narrow, strategic framework set by the AFT bureaucracy, and has completely sold out adjuncts, permitting the unchallenged existence of a 2-tiered system of academic labor. As to whether the cooptation will succeed in the case of CORE, well, that's up in the air...

  12. "Sure, Karen Lewis is the was James Eterno. [rolleyes]"

    Let's see. Comparing Eterno to Lewis who got 60% of the vote in a major city and finished second on the voting for AFT Vice President with more votes than Mulgrew.

    Roll eyes - to the back of your head to prove you are brain dead.

  13. Let's see Michael Friedman and a couple of others from Unity were at that meeting. He keeps writing the same nonsense and he shows up at a lot of ICE stuff. I believe Michael Friedman is your Unity hack here.


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