Jonathan Halabi at the AFT. How he met the President.

karen lewis crop

-Jonathan Halabi is a New York City teacher, union activist and blogger at JD2718. I will be reposting his daily reports from the American Federation of Teachers convention in Minneapolis. It runs through Thursday.

Not that one. Obama’s not here in Minneapolis. And not the next one – she left. And not the AFT President. I’ve met Randi many times before, argued with her, agreed with her, e-mailed, etc. And not Mulgrew, we’ve met.

This is the story of how I met the President of AFT Local 1, the Chicago Federation of Teachers, Karen Lewis.

OK, so I could have walked up to her and said hello, but my story is a little more convoluted.

Four days ago, before the AFT Convention, I was in Chicago, debating Fred Klonsky. Actually, I was staying with Fred and Anne. But little debates broke out. Yankees vs Cubs. Hillary vs Jill.

But our strangest debate was about the relative importance of Belief vs Acts in Judaism. Both Fred and I have tenuous links, not enough to claim expertise. Anne suggested we ask Karen. So we did. Fred texted her a series of questions. Each of which she answered with a question. Quite appropriate, we thought.

So I’m off to Minneapolis and Fred says I have to meet Karen. The first day I look a little for her, but don’t really know where to look. I don’t find her. Fred texts, says Karen expects me.

I look harder Day 2. Still don’t find her. I start introducing myself to Chicago delegates, and asking “Where’s Karen?”  At drinks that evening I meet Michelle Gunderson (we’ve been tweeting/retweeting each other). Fred is a good calling card with Michelle (really, with all the Chicago people). And the fact that we won seats in NYC, people get that this is a big deal. Anyhow, Michelle tells me that Karen has not been in for all of the sessions, but that she will contact me when Karen is available.

Next morning I go to contact Michelle – can’t message her. Hmmph. But as I walk out, I see her, and we exchange numbers. Session proceeds.

It Unfolds

At 11:34 I got a message “Meet me at mic 5 so we can introduce you to Karen” I dropped my phone, mid-tweet, left the computer open on a letter I was writing. The mics are spread around the room, I checked, 5 was behind me, towards the back. I briskly walked over. Michelle smiled, said “he’s going to take you to Karen.” There was a CTU delegate who I had met briefly the day before. He headed off, with me half a step behind. We reached the far side of the floor. “Over there, she’s waiting for you” and he motioned up the aisle. He turned away.

I walked 15 steps to two people, standing in the aisle. I said hello as Karen turned to me, and introduced myself. Here I am, speaking to the president of a fighting local, sort of a teacher union hero, and we proceed to chat about militant unionism?  Nope. Prayer (dovening) and the Lubavitch. I even forget to wish her happy birthday. Schmuck.

But that’s how I met Karen Lewis.

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