Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Dilemma: How to be Critical of Our Union Leaders Without Being Viewed as Attacking the Union?

I am even more at odds with those who use every disagreement to launch broadsides against the union.... Before you go using my tweet to go off batshit crazy on the AFT, please get your facts straight.--- Mike Klonsky comment on Ed Notes Post: UFT/AFT Sells Out on Common Core":
To Ed Shultz: why are you rolling out someone who'd switched sides more times than General Dostum and calling her a union activist?   - Sean Crowley, teacher in Buffalo, on Randi
I take Mike Klonsky's point seriously though the graphic indicated my thinking when it concerns expressing sympathy for Randi. The problem is Randi has made herself the AFT just as the made herself the UFT.

First let me clarify about my using Mike's tweet to go after the AFT on common core. I had the impression that the resolution was being sponsored by the AFT but Mike points out it wasn't -- not yet at least. But the UFT and AFT have pushed common core so I'm expecting if not this reso maybe something similar.

Here was Mike's tweet:
 "I can't get behind AFT's resolution on Common Core Standards. To me it contradicts their resolution on testing.
You can read Mike's full comment below.

But the more important issue is something Mike has been raising regarding the level of criticism of what he terns the "union" and what I term the "misleading, undemocratic, bloodsucking, sellout oligarchy running the union."

A big difference but as my pals tell me involves some level of being tactical and subtle (NOT ME) and making sure to distinguish between the leadership and the union. Now here in NYC we have a situation where the 50 year leadership that controls the union has made itself into one and the same by controlling every single aspect of the union operation. Call it "embedded on steroids." And don't forget that Unity Caucus is the key to controlling the state - NYSUT - and the national - AFT due to NYC being by far the largest local in the nation.

When the massively funded ed deformers engage in attacks on teacher unions -- no matter how hard Randi tries to suck up she can't do enough of it to get most of them off her back -- it creates sympathy for the devil and people like me begin to look like aiders and abetters of the attackers. I have no easy way out of this as my goal is to do what I can to create an organization within the UFT that can challenge Unity and that takes people. Lots of people. I can play a neutral position -- like praise them when the do the right thing and hammer them when they screw up or just go at them all the time. The latter is my nature.

Mike expressed some of his own frustration with Randi without going batshit in this post: 

Here the union was under severe attack and made a deal that looks bad. But he points out that "some of the most draconian parts of the original plan were beaten back." OK. That is what we hear from the UFT all the time (they wanted to execute 2 teachers but we got it cut to 1 -- and maybe the point is that better to save one at least.
 Then Mike points out a crucial point in comparing Cleveland to Chicago:
plans like Cleveland's are favored by both parties -- especially by Obama/Duncan. The plan fits perfectly with Duncan's Race To The Top. To really stand up to it, the Cleveland Teachers Union would have to be ready to take on the weight of the entire system and buck Democratic Party and AFT leaders as the CTU is trying to do in Chicago.  AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten has been pushing hard on local unions to accept these type of deals. She and local union prez,  David Quolke hailed a similar plan in New Haven as "a model" for the rest of the county.
Kasich's attempt last year to totally crush the state's unions was defeated when the entire labor movement and national allies rallied and voters beat back his SB5 bill. This time around, he and the  corporate reformers were able to push through a plan, with help from Democrats and union leaders, that applied only to Cleveland and not the whole state. The tactic worked and is now being used in other states, especially in cities like Chicago where there's mayoral control of the schools.

The new plan shifts even more resources away from city schools, closes more of them and turns them and over to privately-managed charters. It makes it easier to fire veteran teachers without due process. Teacher pay and evaluation linked to student test scores is now embedded in the law. Union leaders, including Weingarten from the AFT signed off on this without any real Chicago-style mobilization of city teachers and community supporters. No line in the sand has been drawn -- yet.
The latter point is so important we can't let it go. The difference is Chicago where the union leadership IS NOT ALLOWING RANDI-STYE UNIONISM TO SELL THEM OUT WITHOUT A FIGHT. BUT SHE WILL TRY.

That message must be hammered home to our friends in Chicago who at times actually seem to think they are winning Randi over to their side. She is just playing them. That is as much her nature as my going after her all the time is mine.

Mike concludes with:
Will public education and the union live to fight another day as a result of this agreement and the concessions made? Anti-union conservatives like Stanford's Terry Moe are worried about that. He predicted that, as details of the plan get negotiated, union leaders will “do whatever they can to water them down and make them as non-threatening as possible.”

Maybe. We shall see. But what's repulsive is the sight of union leaders hailing these plans as a national models of collaboration. It's one thing to lose a fight to a more powerful (at least for now) foe. It's quite another to call that defeat a victory.... Does the union have the heart for such a struggle? Are current leaders up for it? If not, there's really bad times ahead for Cleveland schools.
I really do want to be like Mike in being so tactical but find it so hard.

Well, we've been seeing the UFT calling every defeat a victory for years so get used to it. With the attitude that you can't fight them we have no chance. My bet is that unless Cleveland elects a Chicago-style CORE caucus there is no heart for such a struggle. And that same lesson hold here in NYC. The problem on our end is to actually create an organization that is capable of leading these struggles and we have a long way to go with MORE in such a nascent stage.

Suggestion: read Assailed Teacher on The Death and Birth of Teacher Unions
Let's shuffle off to Buffalo: I got this from Sean Crowley, a teacher in Buffalo and not a Randi fan:

ed schultz

Hello norm, I was wishing you could have been patched through to Randi Weingarten yesterday as she pontificated to clueless Eddie about the plight of pedagogues. As if she knows. That big dope is just as outta touch as all of the cracks he makes about Mittens Romney just in a down home just folksier -- lookit the bass I caught -- kinda fashion. If there is any way you can break through and do the interview none of these Obama friendly shills and hacks will do because it trumps all of their happy b.s. about their deep concern for teachers. Wait a minute Ed why are you rolling out someone who'd switched sides more times than General Dostum and calling her a union activist? Thanks for your time.
Sean Crowley
Sean followed up with: "you are revered and admired by many of my BTF brothers and sisters here in Buffalo." I may just shuffle off to bask in the glory.
Sean's blog is:
Here is Mike Klonsky full comment on the post "UFT/AFT Sells Out on Common Core":

Before you go using my tweet to go off batshit crazy on the AFT, please get your facts straight. First of all, this is just a resolution being proposed by a local in Oklahoma of non-instructional staff, asking the AFT for support and training around Common Core, same as instructional staff gets. The AFT exec board hasn't endorsed it and the AFT convention hasn't even been held yet.

Yes, I have been openly critical of Common Core Standards and find CCS at odds with the AFT's anti-testing resolution. But I am even more at odds with those who use every disagreement to launch broadsides against the union.

The picture you posted with the title cut off is misleading and the conclusions you draw are way out of proportion to the issue you are referring to here. You need to make some correction.
Mike says I cut off the picture but I just took the pic from his link:

At any rate, I'm glad he raised the issue because it is an important one. ICE was attacked for attacking the union leadership vociferously. New Action took the other tack -- the union is under attack, we have to form a united front.

We will delve into some of these issues at the opening of the MORE summer series tomorrow. I've been wracking my poor brain to put together a history and will publish it on Ed Notes tomorrow before the event.


Isabella Keegan said...

Hello Norm,
You would receive a big welcome in Buffalo if you ever decide to come. We love your blog and Sean Crowley is trying to educate the masses here. Please keep reading his blog. The writing is fantastic, as is yours. A giant platter of wings awaits you!

RunnerGurl said...

Norm: You are always welcome in Buffalo. We would receive you with open arms. Sean Crowley is a great man and is keeping things real in the Queen City of the Great Lakes and opening eyes of many whose eyes have been closed for quite some time. It's people like you and he who will help us win this fight for the kids of the U.S.

ed notes online said...

It would be great to meet you all. anyone going to the AFT convention in Detroit in 2 weeks?