Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Why Won't Unity/UFT/AFT Leaders Fight Back? See Puerto Rico and Wisconsin

A union can't mount a rigorous battle unless it is a democratic union.
NOTE: Come and meet Puerto Rico Teacher union (FMPR) President Rafael Feliciano when he will be in NYC in about a week to 10 days - look for more info at ed notes
ACLU-PR Director Ramirez anti-police-UPR-terror event in NYC

I am constantly asked why Randi Weingarten and Michael Mulgrew - or MulGarten - won't put up a fierce battle to stop closing schools and the invasion of the charters in order to defend teachers and public education. Recent events give us some insight into the power of government over unions and how they treat "good (cooperative)" and "bad" (fightback) unions.

In Wisconsin we are seeing an attempt to totally scuttle unions whether good or bad by removing collective bargaining rights, forcing a union election every year and taking away dues checkoff. Less drastic but certainly moving in that direction is what we see here in NYC with a massive attack on the basic protections teachers have with tenure and last in first out.

As we've been reporing, instead of a rigorous defense of LIFO (Why Won't Mulgrew Defend LIFO?), MulGarten has punted, talking about how we should tax Wall Street. Now this is certainly a move in an interesting direction for the union, which has always avoided attacking the bastions of the rich because, as staunch supporters of capitalism, they wanted to keep class warfare off the table. I remember writing about it the spring of 2008 (months before the big crash) when on the day the UFT held a rally at City Hall begging for a few hundred million in the restoration of ed funds, Bear Sterns - just a few blocks away - was being bailed out with billions.

Not one mention was made of the connection between the funneling of massive monies into private hands and the ed deform movement that purposely talks about "teacehr quality" as the key while disparaging solutions like class size reduction that might actually make a difference. (From the first time I heard Randi Weingarten sign on to this TQ idea I told her she was leading us down a slippery slope that has turned into a free fall.)

In order to fightback a union requires an informed membership and a democratic structure that makes everyone feel they have a real stake and say in union policy. But opening up to other voices is dangerous for a union leadership like Unity Caucus because it could ultimately threaten their control. So they make the choice to cooperate with the powers that be - to be known as a "good" union - rather than stand and fight.

A union can't mount a rigorous battle unless it is a democratic union.

Now, as you will read below, the governor of Puerto Rico, fed up with a union that has fought him - successfully - at every turn, has taken the drastic step of firing every leader of the FMPR which would  make them ineligible to run the union. This act is even worse than what is happening in Wisconsin, disenfranchising 40,000 teachers in PR.

This after failing to undermine them by removing dues checkoff, running a bogus group from SEIU against them and other tactics. I should report that the FMPR removed itself from the AFT in 2003 (just search this blog for FMPR or Puerto Rico to get a weatlh of articles) because they were paying enormous dues to a national union that wouldn't fight for the workers.

Here's the gory story:
Entire Leadership of Puerto Rican Teachers Federation (FMPR) Fired from their Teaching Positions

Puerto Rican Education Secretary Jesús Rivera Sánchez dismissed the 11 members of the executive committee of the Puerto Rican Teachers Federation (FMPR)  [unaffiliated with US teaching federations] from their teaching posts and blocking them from exercising their profession in public and private systems. 

The teaching licenses of the FMPR leadership were permanently revoked.

The union's president, Rafael Feliciano, together with the ten other dismissed leaders, characterized the measure as repressive and unprecedented, with the goal of destroying the union leadership and intimidating the teachers from struggling against the current administration's plans to privatize the schools and liquidate the teachers' retirement fund.
The struggle against privatization, against labor rights violations, the right to union, the right to strike, freedom of speech and assembly in Puerto Rico needs your solidarity.   The FMPR is an independent democratic social justice justice union that has defied their version of the repressive Taylor Law (Law 45) and have had successful strikes and continuously organizes walk-outs with parents, students and communities against the horrible school conditions. We can not allow colonial Governor Fortuño to destroy the FMPR with fascistic repressive & union-busting measures that serve to escalate the privatization of  public education (Kindergarten to University) and all public services.

Spread the word.  Angel Gonzalez
Check out Norms Notes for a variety of articles of interest: http://normsnotes2.blogspot.com/. And make sure to check out the side panel on right for news bits.

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