Wednesday, July 14, 2010
CORE Rocks, Unity S_cks! - Part 1
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.