Monday, May 15, 2023

A Tale of Two Teachers Unions comparing influence of progressive Chicago CTU with Tepid UFT - Norm's article in The Indypendent

In contrast to Chicago and Los Angeles’s teachers unions, New York City’s United Federation of Teachers (UFT) has partnered with the Adams administration to move its retirees from Medicare, the only public health-car option, to a privatized Aetna Medicare Advantage plan. An amendment at the union’s Delegate Assembly calling for the UFT to lobby to remove New York State’s ban on public-sector strikes led union leaders to denounce the move with arguments that ranged from the ­obscure to the ridiculous. Recent headlines on an opposition blog captured the moment: “Why doesn’t UFT leadership want us to have the right to strike?”  Why have teachers unions in Chicago, Los Angeles and New York  taken such divergent paths?  What is New York City losing by having a neutered teachers union that eschews militant grassroots ­organizing in favor of insider politicking?--- Norm Scott in The Indypendent

I was asked to write an article for The Indypendent on the differences between the left wing teacher unions in Chicago and Los Angeles compared to the UFT. I didn't have the space to a deeper dive. Fundamental politics is that the left unions line up with the Berrnie Sanders wing of the Dem Party - clearly a minority vs the UFT lining up with the Dem Party center/corporate wing. What better example than the UFT leadership support for privatized Medicare Advantage and undercutting Medicare, the only publicly controlled option for healthcare? I also didn't get into the deeper reasons of a union controlled by one party for 60 years and how that helps distort the opposition forces and their ability to function. Let me also say right out, the opposition over the past 50 years has not been blameless but often tries to shunt off blame on the leadership. As part of that opposition for 5 decades I don't shun an analysis of what has not resonated with enough of the membership to topple Unity. I also didn't get into United for Change future prospects. Are teachers in Chi/LA so different from NYC or is it a combo of leadership (no Unity Caucus in those cities) and oppo failure or are there deeper issues? I will follow up.

Militant Chicago Teachers Union shows how to transform a city.

On April 4, former Chicago public-school teacher and Chicago Teacher Union (CTU) organizer Brandon Johnson was elected mayor of Chicago. His opponent was Paul Vallas, former CEO of the Chicago school system and an adamant foe of the CTU who staked out tough-on-crime positions that were expected to give him a clear path to victory. The long and tangled history between Vallas and the CTU made this victory especially sweet. Vallas was the favorite of The Chicago Tribune, pro-charter school billionaires, the police union, Republicans in general and corporate Democrats, including the Obama wing of the party.

The rise of the leftist Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE), founded in 2008 and taking power in the CTU in 2010, galvanized the nation’s labor movement with a 2012 strike that embarrassed Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Obama administration shortly before the 2012 presidential election. To pull off the strike, the CTU hired organizers, including Brandon Johnson, to spread its message. Street actions, including demonstrations at banks, were part of the strategy. The union’s power and influence in Chicago have only grown.


I'd also recommend reading the review I co-wrote of the Shanker bio which gets into some of the issues.

Albert Shanker: Ruthless Neocon -



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