I don't get it - Who or what or how, is voting and supporting the union leadership? How is the unity caucus organized and who is in it that maintains such ironclad support? How do I even begin to figure this out? For 2 years I've been talking to teachers in all areas and I still can't get an answer that makes sense to me. Help!!! -- M.E., parent opt out activist
As I read the blogs (NYC Educator: The Genius of UFT Leadership),
I see others scratching their heads to try and understand the actions of the UFT/AFT and NYSUT (even though NYSUT, under pressure from small locals at times seems to be going off the tracks -- which was what the Randi/Mulgrew Revise coup was all about last year.)
There is not a simple answer and I'm not sure they my explanations will make things any clearer. Before getting to the essence of the question - it will take a series of blog posts to get to the roots of where the UFT came from as an understanding of the pretty much iron-clad system Shanker and crew set up to assure lifetime tenure for Unity Caucus - not just protection from a rank and file revolt but also protection from governmental and corporate attacks by demonstrating a willingness to collaborate even when such collaboration is against the interests of the members.
Some of you have asked why, given the absolute assault on teachers and their unions, am I putting energy into exposing the historical roots of our union as collaborationist (Why Did the AFT End Its Coca-Cola Boycott?) with so many of the enemies of labor and democracy? (I.e. - Have you wondered what Randi was doing in Ukraine recently with the lame excuse that some of her family had come from there?)
Last summer (2014) at the AFT convention in LA I was chatting with a high official of big city progressive teacher union local who told me an interesting story about attending an international conference in Europe of educational leaders from around the world.
Many complained to her about the role AFT and its agents were playing on the international level, even to the extent of undermining their work -- especially if they were leftist oriented teacher unions.
(Understanding that part of the very essence of the UFT from the beginning was to purge leftists and left ideology out of the American labor movement - especially teacher unions -- and when the AFT under Dave Selden seemed to be drifting too far left in the early 70s, Shanker pulled off his AFT takeover coup in 1974.)
The role the AFT - and don't forget the UFT is the tail that wags that dog -- at the state, national and international level goes beyond educational issues.
I want to poke holes in the myth that the major goals of what some refer to as the "labor bureaucracy" when it comes to the UFT/AFT are not just self-serving, avaricious and at times, incompetent union leaders --- yes to all of that -- but also committed defenders of the government/corporate/ruling class control of society - and it is from helping maintain that control that they get their perks.
Why support common core/testing, and ed deform in general? Because the ruling class over the past 33 years (since Nation at Risk) has determined that the education system needs ed deform and the teachers have to be the sacrificial lamb to make that happen. The AFT/UFT can live with that as long as they are allowed to stay in control of whatever is left.
And don't forget that it was Shanker who started prepping the UFT to become a non-teacher union through dilution by organizing nurses - and Randi by bringing in home day care workers. And if you add the 40,000 or so not classroom people (ie, paras, social workers, etc.) plus the 60,000 or so retirees, the actual teaching core is a minority. So if they get screwed - especially if senior and untenured - there are replacement parts all paying the same dues. What about this slogan: They earn while they churn.
Not just ed deform, but foreign policy too
Yes - it makes sense once you realize Randi is on the other side -- but not just Randi. The purpose of this series of posts is to take the focus off Randi as the perpetrator and put it on the collaborationist institutional ideology installed by Al Shanker and his merry band over 50 years ago who turned the UFT/AFT into an instrument of American corporate/government policy (one and the same also known in some quarters as the "ruling class") -- even when those policies harm the members they supposedly represent. In my view they do not represent us but rather the ruling class by playing the role of pushing such policies down the throats of the members.
The American Federation of Teachers and the CIA by George Schmidt lays the backdrop to explain some of the actions of our union leaders.
Vera Pavone has been hard at work pouring through the George Schmidt 40 year old pamphlet plus the more recent Kahlenberg Shanker bio to help put together our case. (Vera helped us digitize the pamphlet by typing all 86 pages into WORD and Leo Zimmerman created the pdf with the wonderful links (you can spend a week reading just the few pages below).
I am going to post a few sections of George's work to give you the story in small doses.
Before you start think of one question: Given recent history especially, does anyone think the CIA, FBI, NSA and whatever else WOULD NOT WANT TO INFLUENCE, IF NOT CONTROL, THE AMERICAN LABOR MOVEMENT AND USE SUCH INFLUENCE AND CONTROL DOMESTICALLY AND ABROAD?
Here is the first dose - with a short excerpt from George's 2000 introduction.
I was at first pleased—but surprised—to find that intelligent and committed people were still interested in this brief study nearly a quarter century after it was researched and written. Looking back on the 26 years we have been publishing the teachers’ newspaper Substance in Chicago, however, it should not have been as surprising as it first seemed to me. There is the same connection across generations now as there was when my generation struggled to locate and learn the history of American radicalism during the Orwellian brainwash of the early 1960s.Remember - this is from 1978:
It was Sid who made it clear we had to begin with the devastation that followed the Allied victory over Nazism in Europe. With his help we could check out the first cooperation between the nascent CIA (when it was still the old OSS) and the Nazi intelligence organizations in those opening days before the “Cold War” even had a name. In the name of The Free World, even before the guns had stopped firing, our “side” was providing haven for the worst fascists, anti-Semites, racists, and white supremacists in history—provided they help “us” against the Soviet Union and mass organizations (especially unions) in Western Europe
Chicago’s Lester Davis, who edited the newspaper of the Chicago Teachers Union, is also long gone. A founder of the AFT Black Caucus, Lester kept many of us informed about the antics of the Shanker administration of the American Federation of Teachers during the 1970s. It was Lester’s privilege to describe for me the official behind-the-scenes reception to this little book. Lester told me how Sandy Feldman demanded that the AFT sue me for libel at the AFT executive council meeting that followed the 1978 convention where we first sold this book. And Lester also told me how Al Shanker realized it was far better to allow a little book to circulate than to give its author the right to defend the truth behind that book. I’m sure that Lester’s friend and fellow Panamanian organizer Paul Robeson remained proud of Lester in all that.
TO BE CONTINUEDChapter One: Cooperating Around the World
Direct links between the 430,000 member American Federation of Teachers(AFT) and the UnitedStates Central Intelligence Agency(CIA) have been forged and strengthened since the election of NewYork’s Albert Shanker as AFT national president in 1974. Prior to that time, a number of national union staff members had developed relations with the intelligence agency through the union’s various international affairs programs. Additionally, Shanker’s home local in New York, the huge Local 2 (United Federation of Teachers) had served as a base for CIA related labor activities through the AFT until Shanker himself assumed the national presidency. It was not until Shanker’s faction (the Progressive Caucus [note: still running AFT]) took national power, however, that the weight of the teachers union became a full partner in government/CIA international affairs.
The AFT’s CIA connections are carried out through three foundations sponsored by theAFL–CIO, the largest multinational corporations and the United States government’s Agency for International Development, AID. The oldest of the foundations, the American Institute for Free Labor Development (AIFLD), works in the Latin American nations. The African American Labor Committee (AALC)operates in Africa, while the Asian American Free Labor Institute (AAFLI) works in the non-communist nations of Asia. AFT/CIA connections are also carried out through the International TradeSecretariat for teachers unions, the International Federation of Free Teachers Unions (IFFTU). TheIFFTU is one of 16 International Trade Secretariats(OR ITS’s). A number of these predate the cold war and function as multinational unions in the face of the transnational corporations, while a smaller number—particularly those founded after World War II—either cooperate with the U.S. intelligence or were actually established by the CIA itself in cooperation with the AFL and later, the AFL-CIO.
In addition to Shanker himself, national union staff members Al Loewenthal and Anthony DiBlasi carryout international trade union work through the AFT which involves the teachers union both internationally and domestically in U.S. intelligence and State Department activities. Other national union personalities who have participated in these activities include Sandra Feldman, Velma Hill, Ponsie Hillman and Vito DiLeonardis from Local 2 in New York. Former union staffer Denise Thiry was among the most active of the AFT’s international people until her resignation in 1976. Thiry’s work included cooperation with the U.S. government in the coup d’etat that overthrew the Allende government in Chile in 1973. Before she was exposed as a police spy in Chicago, Sheli Lulkin, who was co-chairperson of the AFT Women’s Rights committee, had also begun to involve herself in international union and “women’s rights” activities. National union figures from Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago and San Francisco have also participated in the international affairs work of AFT since Shanker’s rise to power.
The most important domestic organization outside of the U.S. labor movement which cooperates in intelligence and State Department activities and is influential in the AFT is the Social Democrats-USA (SDUSA), a small “socialist” party based in New York and affiliated with the Social International (the descendant of the Second International). SDUSA members who serve in national leadership posts in the AFT include Albert Shanker, Sandra Feldman, Velma Hill and a significant minority of the union’s national staff members at the AFT offices in Washington, D.C. SDUSA, which operates out of offices in the International Ladies Garment Workers (ILGWU) building in New York, has a membership of less than 5,000 persons. Through its power within the AFL-CIO Executive Council and certain American trade unions, however, and through its connections with the U.S. government’s Cold War activities, its influence far outweighs its numbers in the top echelons of organized labor in America.
From this tiny “socialist” grouping are drawn a number of the intellectual apologists for the AFL-CIO’s Cold War policies and for the CIA’s activities. SDUSA members have secured a number of importantstaff posts within the AFL-CIO International Affairs Department and in different unions whichcooperate in CIA-supported labor activities both at home and abroad. Within its own ranks, the SDUSA includes dozens of members with no direct affiliation to the labor movement whose work aids both public and clandestine foreign policy activity. The most prominent SDUSA members active in theseaffairs include Tom Kahn, head of the League for Industrial Democracy (an SDUSA affiliate with offices in the same office), who edits the AFL-CIO Free Trade Union News; Bayard Rustin, chairman of SDUSA and a number of other organizations, who serves as an apologist for “labor’s” racial policies;Carl Gershman, whose writings invariably back up AFL-CIO international positions; Thomas Brooks, who concentrates on writing “histories” of American labor from the anti-communist, Cold War perspective; and Norman Hill, director of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, which encourages the training of Black labor leaders amendable to the AFL-CIO leadership’s positions.
Allied with the most powerful men and women in the AFL-CIO, the United States government, the transnational corporations, and the CIA, these people are working within the American labor movement to insure the perpetuation of the same Cold War policies that they helped formulate and execute during the last 35 years. The AFT, since 1974, has become their latest ally in that campaign.