Norm here - Sept. 30, 2020
The next UFT election is looming in spring 2022 and Mulgrew is reaching new levels of unpopularity due to the often tepid UFT response on opening
schools. especially with the CSA coming off as more militant than the UFT. The standard opposition voices have been very active. And in addition there is growing skepticism within the UFT rank and file and even in Unity Caucus about Mulgrew's leadership. (My sources tell me that some in Unity wanted to strike). And then there is a history of the three most recent UFT leaders going back to 1974 becoming AFT president. And with massive budget cuts to come once schools reopen - probably by next year - [See Arthur report - UFT Executive Board September 29, 2020--Staffing is a Disaster and the Budget Looks Even Worse] all balls are in the air.
Recent articles, from the left (Jacobin) and from the right (Mike Antonucci/Intercepts), addressed another upcoming election, for AFL-CIO president if Richard Trumpka retires - or is pushed. How would Randi's leaving the AFT affect the UFT and Mulgrew? I'll address that issue in more detail in Part 2 or 3.
What does Randi really want?
In 2016 there were rumors Randi would be Hillary's Secty of Education and now there are rumors she would be up for the same job in a Biden administration since the Dems said they would appoint a teacher - which in itself is funny since Randi was way more lawyer than teacher (she taught full-time for only 6 months but that's better than an Arne Duncan or Betsy De Vos).
I've disparaged this idea because Sect'y of Ed is so subordinate to the President and other forces it is much less powerful than the AFT President.
For the past two decades the only position I felt Randi would leave for would be to lead the AFL-CIO, which includes the bulk of the US labor movement. She would be the first woman to head that organization.
The other option would be merging the AFT and NEA into a 4 million member national union with her at the head. There would be a lot of push back from the NEA which has term limits and is wary of AFT/Unity Caucus lack of democracy.
AFL-CIO head was the position UFT founder Al Shanker wanted and if he had lived he might have gotten it - he was a fave of the big boss George Meany due to his pro-Vietnam War stance and hard line anti-communism. But not being from an industrialized union in the 80s and 90s was not a good talking point for leadership. But now teacher unions are among the strongest remnants of unionism and a leader is primed for AFL-CIO leader.
(Read the review of his bio I co-wrote - Albert Shanker: Ruthless Neocon - Review by Vera Pavone and Norman Scott in New Politic http://newpol.org/content/albert-shanker-ruthless-neo-con)
Shanker's final position was AFT president when he died in 1997 and I can imagine Randi dreaming of rising to the position Shanker coveted. (She had to wait 10 years to rise to AFT Pres in 2009 after Sandi Feldman died. The deaths of two founders of the UFT in their 60s cleared the way for Randi. Think of the AFT presidency like the Supreme Court - lifetime appointment by Unity Caucus.)
But there are others in Randi's way - competitors like NEA president Lily Eskelsen García who is term-limited while Randi is assure of being AFT president for life. The heir apparent to Trumpka is Liz Shuler: The AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer.
But the most intriguing candidate is the union leader darling of the left, Sara Nelson, of the Association of Flight Attendants union, setting up a replica of the Biden/Bernie battle in the Dem Party - a delicious thought. I've been a fan of Nelson as has been much of the left. Randi and Eskelson Garcia have the numbers of members compared to Nelson but more on this center vs left aspect in part 2. But first,
Some history of Randi trolling Trumpka:
A report from FOX news, Aug. 2, 2018
- AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka is getting an earful – on Twitter – from teachers union boss Randi Weingarten for reportedly keeping the door open to a possible Trump endorsement in 2020. Newsmax reported Wednesday that Trumka would not rule out a union endorsement for the president. “Every [candidate] will be looked at,” Trumka said. He added, “we will consider every candidate who’s running.”... FOX- https://www.foxnews.com/politics/trumka-blasted-by-teachers-union-boss-for-keeping-door-open-on-trump-2020-endorsementThen: Weingarten walked her comments back, saying, without any real explanation, that Trumka had clarified his remarks.
Of course, Randi walked back her remarks but she had issued a warning shot across Trumpka's bow.
Then we have this report from Mike Antonucci in May, 2019:
Bloomberg Law runs a column called the Daily Labor Report, and this week the lead item is about who is waiting in the wings to challenge AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka.
The timing of the piece is curious, to say the least. Trumka has more than two years remaining in his current term, and the AFL-CIO doesn’t practice term limits. Trumka has been president for 10 years and, leaving out the short tenure of one interim president, previous presidents have served for 14, 16 and 24 years.
But, okay, let’s roll with it:
Trumka still has more than two years left in his third term at the helm, but that’s not stopping some of his possible successors from sniffing out potential support for a run if and when the seat opens. Three names are swirling as likely candidates to eventually replace Trumka, and at least two of them are making calls behind the scenes to try to build a backing, according to sources.
…Randi Weingarten: The American Federation of Teachers president flirted with challenging Trumka in the last AFL-CIO election and has since been a prominent voice in highly publicized school house strikes. Weingarten is taking a page from the Paul Ryan for Speaker of the House playbook: She will publicly say she’s not interested in the job, while remaining open to the option behind the scenes if sufficiently urged to do so by others.
Weingarten’s name has been floated in the past as a U.S. Senator and a Secretary of Education. I have no idea if she is interested in being president of the AFL-CIO. Clearly, neither does Bloomberg Law, but it didn’t stop them from posting a column about it.
I can think of at least one good reason she wouldn’t want the job. She made $405,793 last year as AFT president. Trumka made $261,779.
What does this all mean for the UFT and Mulgrew? Hold your breath. Parts 2 and 3 are coming soon.