Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Chicago Teachers Union: Neo-liberalism is the Problem, UFT: Bloomberg is the Problem

It's neoliberalism, stupid.
Just head on over to the MORE blog and see all the Unity people crying about how they can't do much until the big bad Bloomberg is gone. Same as they did with Giuliani and at times Dinkins and with Koch and Lindsay before them. In Chicago they know where to place the blame and that gives them tools to fight back by educating the members as to the real threat -- that the neo-liberal assault by both Dems and Rep and not one mayor is the threat. What the UFT is trying to sell is that things might get marginally better. A losing proposition for the membership, but fine for the leaders who will always collect their 6 figure salaries. Note the level of hysteria in their comments. The idea of MORE winning and sending them back to teach is just a bit too much to bear. increasing number of Democrats no longer even feigning to be troubled with placating unions–once seen as a central constituency for the party–or a broader agenda of equality and social justice, unionists and their partisans have grown increasingly exasperated at party policies that look more and more like those of Republicans. This is particularly true in the case of education reform, where Democrats have swallowed the Right’s free market orthodoxy whole. Much of the party appears to have given up on education as a public project. This is a shift that necessarily entails an attack on teachers and their unions. But like the rest of labor, American teachers unions have been unable to articulate a cogent critique of that shift within the Democratic Party and the policy proposals it has produced. The broader agenda has been occasionally challenged, but the sectors of the party pushing it have remained beyond reproach....The Chicago Teachers Union has made a decisive break with this approach.... Micah Uetricht
I received a note from Micah with links to articles on the Chicago TU and CORE story. Worth reading and I am looking forward to Micah's book which we will review here when it comes out. Just not this from our pal Kenzo Shibata: Proponents of the CTU’s bottom-up organizing style say there is no other way to win. “Top-down just does not work. It’s the style of the bosses,” says the CTU's Kenzo Shibata.
Mark Brenner, director of Labor Notes, an organization dedicated to fostering union democracy, says this commitment sets the CTU apart from much of American labor. “There’s a lot of cynicism in labor about the capacity of ordinary, working-class people to run their unions,” Brenner says. “Leaders think those people should have good lives, but they don’t think they have the capacity to do big things.” That cynicism, Brenner says, has prevented other unions from engaging members the way Chicago teachers have. “Even among ‘progressive’ unions, democracy is not high on the list of must-haves. That has really hurt our movement,” he says. “Democracy is what builds the capacity to take high-stakes, risky actions like the CTU did.”
Kit Wainer, running for high school exec bd, is quoted:
Other union leadership has been made skittish by the CTU example. Referring to a CORE-style caucus fighting a recently negotiated Newark Teachers Union contract introducing merit pay, NTU President Joe Del Grosso seemed nervous. “They had some signs there that we should follow Chicago’s lead,” Del Grosso recently told Working In These Times’ Josh Eidelson. “I think that’s very dangerous.”
In New York City, the Movement of Rank-and-File Educators (MORE), a dissident caucus challenging the current leadership of the United Federation of Teachers (UFT), draws inspiration from the CTU’s rank-and-file democracy.
Kit Wainer, a social studies high school teacher and member of MORE, says that under the UFT’s current leadership, “There’s no real process for members to have any kind of direct say in the day-to-day direction of the union. There’s formal democracy, but no substantive democracy.”
The problem, Wainer says, is not that the UFT lacks a broad social-justice vision—it’s that rank-and-file teachers are not engaged in democratic practices within the union to enact that vision. “[UFT President Mike] Mulgrew talks about poverty, about charters as a privatization scheme by the rich,” Wainer says. “The problem is they won’t mobilize members to fight. Their idea of fighting is hiring lobbyists and lawyers to go to Albany, or buying TV commercials.”
If MORE’s slate can capture leadership like CORE, Wainer says, “We’d build up membership confidence and willingness to struggle. We could reteach members what the union is.”
Well, there's so much interesting stuff I want to print it all. So go forth and read. So many lessons for us here on the diffs from the UFT, especially in the approach where the UFT blames Bloomberg while the CTU blames neo-liberalism, a word the UFT will never use. Know why? Because a whole lot of neo-liberalism is built into their fabric.
Hi Norm,

My name is Micah Uetricht and I'm a writer in Chicago. I'm a subscriber to EdNotes and saw your post about the Ethan Young paper on the CTU and a bit of history about CORE in Chicago. Thought you might be interested in a short book I am currently at work on about the CTU that will be published by Verso in the summer. Obviously, CORE plays a central role in it, and the caucus gets its own chapter in the book, based on numerous interviews I've been doing with CORE members. 

It will be a little while before the book is out, but I thought I'd flag it for you anyway, in case you're interested. Also, here are two pieces I've recently written on the CTU:

This article (from the same issue of Jacobin that my piece on the CTU and the Democrats is in) was recently given to all 700-800 members of the CTU's House of Delegates. I think it's an extremely important piece about the transformation of education in the last several decades. And perhaps you know the author, Will Johnson.

In solidarity,

Assailed Teacher touches on the same theme about the teacher unions refusal to be critical of the Dem ed deformers.


1 comment:

  1. Allow me to paraphrase Rand Paul and say this post and Assailed's have their boot on the throat of the neo liberal scum who are stabbing us in the back with a smile. Does it make sense to anyone that Randi Weingarten should leave the Newark negotiations with a merit pay scam for her alleged constituents or that Governor Christie should walk away from the table pronouncing that the capitulations in this contract made for his most gratifying day in office? I always thought management should really hate the union people by the time negotiations concluded. Randi the concessionairre wants us all to take a bar exam so we can be lawery like her. No thanks. Whats left of our unions needs to be redistributed into the hands of the rank and file and protected from the greedy mitts of these neo-liberal scum.


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