From my friend Arthur in New York. Vote M.O.R.E./New Action.

 -Arthur Goldstein on NYC Educator blog

Dear colleagues:

There is a UFT election coming up. I am running for High School Executive Board with MORE/ New Action. Running for High School Academic Vice President is James Eterno, longtime chapter leader of Jamaica High School. James is one of the most competent and knowledgeable chapter leaders I’ve ever met. I often go to him for advice when trying to help members at Lewis. He seems to know everything.

We are running a great slate for High School Executive Board. While of course I would like you to vote for me, so that I can represent you both in and out of our building, we also have Mike Schirtzer, a friend of mine who’s dedicated himself for years to growing MORE, a relatively new opposition caucus. Mike helped lead MORE to a coalition with the oldest opposition caucus, New Action, which finally ended its long partnership with the controlling Unity Caucus. Together we expect to win these seats and finally achieve a real opposition voice in our union.

At the top of our ticket is Jia Lee, recently featured in the NY Post and on NBC news for defying the Chancellor’s admonition to not speak of opt out. I personally believe opt-out to have been the most effective pushback against the nonsense that’s been imposed on us over the last fifteen years or so. Also on our ticket are my friends Lauren Cohenand Katie Lapham, among other opt-out activists.

Unfortunately our leadership, Michael Mulgrew’s Unity Caucus, has supported, to one extent or another, almost every single education reform that’s come down the pike. They supported teachers being rated by test scores. They supported the Danielson Framework. They supported a contract that got us paid eleven years later than NYPD, FDNY, and most other city unions.

Teachers facing dismissal go through a process called 3020a. In the past, the city had to prove teachers were incompetent in order to fire them. Now, most teachers who face that process will have to prove they are NOT incompetent. I find this tantamount to being guilty until proven innocent and therefore un-American. Michael Mulgrew and Unity Caucus, amazingly, not only support this but have thanked the Assembly for enabling it.

Mulgrew’s Unity Caucus is an elite, invitation-only group that operates in secret. All of its members sign an oath to support its decisions. Those who fail to do so are thrown out. While I would love to be more active in union, like everyone in MORE-New Action, I refuse to sign an oath promising to support leadership rather than membership.

I’ve been teaching for over thirty years. It breaks my heart when young teachers approach me contemplating job changes, and that’s been happening more and more frequently. This is the best job there is, and it’s on us to keep it that way, Please vote for MORE/ New Action, and demand the common sense changes that we support, that Diane Ravitch supports, and that both we and our students need.

Best regards,

Arthur

Senior moments. You don’t own me.

CORE is the caucus representing rank-and-file educators within the Chicago Teachers Union, although anyone can join.

First. Good on them for endorsing Sanders last week, even though the CTU’s parent union, the AFT, was among first to jump on the Clinton campaign bus.

In spite of AFT President Randi Weingarten’s groupie-like non-stop tweets for Clinton and the AFT endorsement of Hillary Clinton, it is no way binding on AFT members.

And it is certainly not binding on a caucus like CORE.

I am an NEA Retired member. The NEA’s leadership and political action committee has also recommended Hillary Clinton. Their endorsement is not binding on me or any member of the NEA. I vote as I please for who I please and sometimes not at all.  There are many, many Bernie supporters among the rank and file of the NEA and the AFT.

Former IEA President Bob Haisman is the official go-to retiree for the IEA Retired’s Clinton campaign efforts. Even he recognizes that the NEA endorsement of Clinton is not supported by many in the IEA Retired.

His letter asking for retired volunteers reads almost defensive.

“We know that this information might be received with some disagreement. We feel the best way to handle this controversy is straight on. Members need to know that the NEA and The IEA have procedures for Presidential Recommendations. There is a rigorous process for recommendation of a candidate for President.  ALL of those procedures were followed. The support for the Hillary Clinton recommendation was overwhelming.” 

The procedures may have been followed, but the first time most NEA Retired and active members read about the endorsement of Clinton was in the newspaper post facto.

Most union recommendations are a good thing if they are for the person I support and don’t matter if they are for the person I oppose. I assume that is true for you as well.

And I suppose they help a candidate with the undecided voter.

But no way are they binding on a member.

Take the CTU’s endorsement in the 40th state representative district in Illinois. The CTU recommends the incumbent who is a Democratic Machine hack. Why the CTU is endorsing him is a mystery to me. No way am I supporting that guy.

I’m supporting Harish I Patel in that race.

On the other hand, the CTU is supporting Kim Foxx for States Attorney and Jay Travis for State Rep in the 26th district. Those are two good choices.

The AFT and NEA endorsement of Clinton was made too early with no membership input. The leadership made no demands upon Clinton in return for the endorsement and was based more on a mistaken assumption of her inevitable election instead of her history or policies.

The lie that union dues money is being spent on Clinton and other candidates is one that is being spread by union-bashers to justify ending agency fees and Fair Share.

Raising money for political activity comes from voluntary membership contributions to union PACs. Not from dues. Nobody is required to give a dime to a union PAC.

There have been exceptions. But in general, I don’t contribute to the state union PAC called IPACE. I make individual donations to individual candidates. That is a way of showing my disapproval when the IEA’s IPACE gives to people like former Illinois state ALEC chair Kirk Dillard or to U.S. Senator Mark Kirk.

 

Randi Weingarten: Labor is united in support of Clinton.

Photo by Jocelyn Augustino©2004

NEA President Eskelsen Garcia. Buyer’s remorse?

AFT President Randi Weingarten thinks political election campaigns are like differences in her union.

It’s works like her vision of democracy.

All she has to do is declare it so and that’s the way is.

So she tell’s the New York Times that all labor union members support Hillary. There is no other opinion. And it is so. Facts don’t get in the way.

In an effort to dispute what they say is a false narrative that union voters are closely split between Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Hillary Clinton, a group of more than 20 unions representing more than 10 million workers is releasing a statement on Monday reaffirming support for Mrs. Clinton.

“Secretary Clinton has proven herself as the fighter and champion working people and their families need in the White House,” the statement says. “That is why, of all unions endorsing a candidate in the Democratic primary, the vast majority of the membership in these unions has endorsed her.”

Leading the charge for Hillary among labor union leaders is the AFT President.

“Because there’s now a story where there should not have been one — certain people in the Bernie camp wanted to take advantage of it — the unions that endorsed Hillary want to make really clear to people that we are incredibly supportive of her.”

How dare the news report a story without Randi’s approval.

Even if it’s true.

It is obvious that the union leadership that supports Hillary would not feel the need to issue a statement like this if they were feeling comfortable.

Saturday’s Nevada Democratic Party caucus voters were split between Sanders and Clinton in heavily unionized Las Vegas with Clinton squeezing out a win.

The AFL-CIO is hedging their bets and has decided to stay neutral. Their neutrality contrasts with the NEA and the AFT making early primary endorsements with no demands made of the Clinton campaign or strings attached.

What I find interesting is that the NEA and its President, Lily Eskelson Garcia have been relatively silent about the presidential race since declaring their early support for Clinton.

Her name does not appear in the New York Times article.

There was a lot of unhappiness among the rank and file when the NEA and AFT early endorsement was made.

Not only is labor divided, maybe Lily has buyer’s remorse.

Random thoughts. Union leadership conspiracy theories.

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Don’t go to a state or national union convention thinking there will be real debate or democracy. As a delegate to a state convention one year I needed a bright orange sweater and my whole region waving their arms around behind me for the state president to recognize me at a microphone. At last year’s national meeting we had a two hour debate about the Confederate flag, the result being that my item passed and was filed in a deep dark hole somewhere, never to be seen or heard from again.

Union democracy. Frequently an oxymoron.

AFT President Randi Weingarten is a lawyer, so she knows how to use rhetorical devices.

When I made note on Facebook of her approving repost of a hack piece (The Right Baits the Left to Turn Against Hillary Clinton) from the New York Times suggesting the Bernie Sanders campaign was a conservative conspiracy to deprive Hillary Clinton of her earned nomination, she responded, “Fred-so when you disagree you call someone a hack?”

Nope. I call a hack a hack. Most of those I disagree with I call wrong or right. Or when I disagree with my wife, honey.

The problem with our union leadership is that they have a hard time with those they disagree with. Every difference among the membership is treated as if it were a conspiracy to destroy our unions.

Randi continued:

“I can’t believe you don’t want to know how the right manipulates us… We know how they do it overtly, but this is an astonishing example of how they do it covertly.”

See. Those supporting Sanders are just being manipulated. It’s not as if there are real issues here.

Is that why there was no rank-and-file input into the early, no-strings endorsement by the NEA and the AFT of Hillary?

In our short exchange I told Randi, “Nobody doubts games are played, but the assumption of this article and your comments suggest that the nomination is rightfully Clinton’s and that differences in policy and program exist in the Democratic Party because of a right-wing plot that created a progressive opposition to Clinton’s centrist corporate politics. Nonsense. These differences have always existed in the Democratic Party. Let them play out instead of treating it as if it were all a conspiracy. It should have been a debate in the AFT and the NEA. But that debate was shut down as well.

 

William Greider. Happy Labor Day, Mom.

– William Greider’s column appears in The Nation.

I know this sounds absurd—it is absurd—but for some odd reason Labor Day reminds me of my mother. She was a school teacher, and I think she would have a good laugh to learn that so-called “education reformers” are accusing school teachers of being too powerful and protected. My father, who was himself a long-time member of our local school board, would probably snort at the ignorance of highly educated experts.

Together, they could set the record straight on education from the facts of their own lives. They fell in love when they were young and optimistic and talented. This was the 1920s when women had just won the right to vote, and both were newly graduated from four-year colleges—the very first in my mother’s family. My father completed graduate work in chemistry and was hired as a researcher by a Philadelphia manufacturer where he later invented useful products.

They faced one obstacle in their promising lives. My mother had to sign a teaching contract with a local school district in western Pennsylvania that would prohibit her from getting married. This crude violation of a young woman’s civil rights was commonly enforced around the country. Years later, I learned that my wife’s mother had to do the same thing to get a teaching job in Iowa. Recently, I reread the steamy love letters my parents wrote to one another during that school year of frustrated desire. I blushed for them.

At the Thanksgiving break, they abandoned abstinence and broke the school contract. But secretly. On the long holiday, they eloped to West Virginia and got married there. They told no one. My parents, I should add, were no-nonsense conservative Republicans, not given to reckless adventure or inflammatory political statements. I did think of my mother as an assertive proto-feminist. In retirement, both became Democrats because they thought Goldwater was a dangerous crackpot. In 1972, my dad declared early for George McGovern, while Mom held out for Shirley Chisholm.

Keeping the secret of their marriage may have been done to protect her eligibility for many more years as a teacher. It worked. Toward the end of her long life (she died three days short of 100) my mother got a letter each year from Ohio governors, congratulating her on being the oldest living recipient in Ohio’s teacher retirement system.

I tell this intimate story to make a point that the latter-day reformers do not seem to grasp. They have left out the human dimensions of a harsh labor market where women were regularly punished for not being men. School teachers from the beginnings of America’s public schools have been vulnerable to blatant exploitation—lower wages and harsher terms—and they have been exploited. The jobs could be filled by an abundance of educated single young women in need of incomes. Married women might have babies in the middle of the school year—an inconvenience to school administrators—so married women were banned. Similar gender biases affected nursing and other caring occupations, and to some degree still do.

The fundamental power shift for school teachers did not occur until the 1960s, when frustrated teachers rebelled against traditional school systems run top-down by superintendents and principals. As a young reporter in Louisville, Kentucky, I witnessed one of the early skirmishes in 1962.

One day I got a phone call from an organizer for the American Federation of Teachers who blithely announced that AFT intended to shut down the Louisville schools the following week with a citywide strike. I thought he was joking. AFT was based in East Coast big cities and had no more than fifty members among Louisville’s 2,000 teachers. The National Education Association (NEA) dominated most states those days, and it was run by and for the administrators, not rank-and-file teachers.

The AFT’s strike in Louisville was like a thunderclap—teachers did walk off and virtually shut down the system. Teachers were fed up. They were demanding a stronger voice and power in school affairs and school politics. In rural states like Kentucky, the poorest counties were frequently dominated by matriarchal political machines—women superintendents who controlled more jobs in their county than the men in county offices. The NEA got the message and swiftly adjusted. It became a full-fledged labor union like AFT. Instead of fronting for old-style political bosses, both organizations now try to speak for the interests of teachers and to defend them against political intrusions and other abuses.

These are the relevant facts that self-appointed billionaire reformers skip past. By demonizing the teachers unions and denouncing the tenure laws that protect teachers from arbitrary political reprisals, the do-good foundations have unwittingly cast themselves as a malevolent Daddy Warbucks ready to bury their opposition with tons of money.The Gates Foundation and some others do seem to be belatedly backing away from obvious mistakes, but the reform engine still threatens to undermine the common public school in favor of a deeply fractured system of sectarian and secular private sponsors claiming public money.

Impatient hedge-fund billionaires do not attempt to conceal their contempt for the rest of us. They are used to making money—fast—with no excuses for dawdlers. Witness what they have done to large segments of the overall economy. Education does not thrive in those conditions, because there is no standard of perfection in any schoolhouse that can survive brutal suppression of uniformity imposed by clumsy testing. A successful school not only makes room for dissent. It constantly nourishes it.

Of course, I am biased. But I think that was my mother’s teaching style. She taught first grade in an “inner city” neighborhood of Cincinnati where the students were not not poor black kids but white kids from the mountains of Eastern Kentucky. They shared many of the same handicaps. Mom developed her own theories on how to teach reading to such children. It inovlved hand-eye coordination and other elements I could not follow. I have no proof that she succeeded, but I have a hunch she drove the principal nuts.

The fight for union democracy you won’t read about in the Post.

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A month after, finally and suddenly – the Mulgrew “punch you in the face” story has made the national news.

The Daily News. The New York Post. The right-wing Daily Caller and Breibart.

Why?

Because Mulgrew’s bellicose threats to the rank-and-file fit right into their anti-union narratives of union bosses and union thugs.

In fact, the performance by the New York UFT President, laughingly egged on by AFT President Randi Weingarten, was a gift to the anti-union forces. Wrapped in pretty paper with a big bow on top.

However.

Make no mistake about whether this was actually thuggish behavior by Mulgrew.

Or whether he made this speech because he suddenly lost all control.

Based on my experience of the way leadership does things, this was premeditated thuggery.

Mulgrew showed nothing but disdain for union members who oppose corporate reform.

He clenched his fist.  He screamed and mocked those who argue that Common Core is the product of Broad and Gates and “martians.”

His anger – real or contrived – was reserved not for those who refused to bargain a contract for six long years, or create bogus teacher evaluation schemes or close schools.

It was reserved it for rank-and-file members.

He might as well have said, “How dare you come into my house and challenge what we in the leadership say or do.”

There were two resolutions. One from the AFT leadership supporting the Obama administration and Common Core, while criticizing its implementation.

Another resolution opposed the Common Core. It was brought by delegates from the Chicago Teachers Union, whose House of Delegates had adopted it a few months earlier.

When Mulgrew took to the microphone to speak in support of the leadership’s position, the debate turned ugly.

Where opponents of the leadership resolution spoke of educational practice and data and the negative impact of Common Core on students, Mulgrew threatened to “punch anyone in the face” who tried to take “my Common Core” away.

There were two things going on in Los Angeles that weekend.

There was a debate about curriculum and what is best for teachers and students.

And there was also a demonstration of union democracy. Or the lack of it.

Because there are such people who are union thugs and union bosses.

And there is a movement to replace them.

This debate over Common Core was about what counts as good classroom practice.

The convention was also about power and who gets to make decisions in our unions.

But you won’t read about that in the Daily News or the New York Post.

Mulgrew’s Common Core threats break into the mainstream press. The Daily News.

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I first mentioned UFT President Michael Mulgrew’s punch you in the face speech last month at the time of the Common Core debate at the AFT convention in LA.

NYC Educator has been writing and Tweeting about it for days.

Norm Scott’s EdNotes posted the video today.

Finally it has broken into the New York media with a story in the Daily News.

Michael Mulgrew is hardcore about Common Core.

The fiery teachers union president delivered a passionate defense of the educational standards during the American Federation of Teachers national convention last month.

“If someone takes something from me I’m going to grab it right back out of there cold, twisted sick hands and say it is mine! You do not take what is mine!” a menacing Mulgrew shouted in a speech posted to the Ed Notes Online blog.

“And I’m going to punch you in the face and push you in the dirt because this is the teachers! These are our tools and you sick people need to deal with us and the children we teach. Thank you very much!”

The remarks came during a heated debate on a resolution regarding the American Federation of Teachers continued support of Common Core.

The debate appeared to pit union leadership in favor of the Common Core against some teachers working in the classroom.

After Mulgrew’s wild speech a nonplussed Randi Weingarten said “Whatever you stand on this the passion in this room about our profession is unbelievable. Thank you AFT!”

Mulgrew has been an outspoken critic of the implementation of the national education standards in the city, but is also a supporter of the standards themselves.

United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew made a fiery defense of the Common Core last month. ‘I’m going to punch you in the face and push you in the dirt because this is the teachers!’ he said.

The Common Core, which is supported by a wide range of organizations across the corporate and political spectrum, has been adopted by 45 states and Washington, D.C.

The standards seek to move classroom instruction away rote memorization, break down distinctions between academic subjects and raise the bar of student achievement.

Teachers critical of the standards say they remove all creativity and independence from their jobs.

When the standards were first implemented in 2013 state test scores plummeted by about 30 points.

Mulgrew last grabbed during a delegate assembly of the United Federation of Teachers in May when he confessed to having ‘gummed up’ Mayor

Michael Bloomberg’s attempt to implement a teacher evaluation system.

A union spokeswoman did not immediately have comment on the speech.

The United Federation of Teachers’ loyalty oath. Tolerating no dissent.

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UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “I’ll punch you in the face if you try to take away my Common Core.”

Arthur Goldstein is a high school English teacher and chapter chair of the United Federation of Teachers at Francis Lewis High School. He could not be a delegate to the AFT convention in LA because he would not sign the UFT’s loyalty oath.

When a reader of this blog asked about the loyalty oath, Arthur sent along this article from the Port Jefferson Station Teachers Association, an affiliate of the AFT.

Unfortunately, NYSUT’s largest local, the UFT, does not conduct itself in this way. UFT elections are run with slates competing against each other. It is “winner take all”. Last year, for example, the Unity Caucus, who has run the UFT for half a century and rigged the system in their favor, ran candidates against the opposition caucuses. The MORE Caucus had significant support in their favor (in excess of 40% at the high school level). However because they did not have the largest number they ended up with zero of the UFT’s 800 NYSUT delegates. They literally have no voice at the state and national levels. In essence it would be as if our country voted either Republican or Democrat in elections. Winner taking every single position within government, with the winner also allowed to then structure the voting system to benefit them going forward. It’s insane.

As for this year’s NYSUT election, we know all 800 UFT-Unity Caucus members will vote as they are told to by their leadership. Posted at the bottom of this post is the invitation for Unity Caucus membership. You’ll see that it is invite only. Among the responsibilities…

To express criticism of caucus policies within the Caucus;
To support the decisions of Caucus / Union leadership in public or Union forums;
To support in Union elections only those individuals who are endorsed by the Caucus, and to actively campaign for his / her election;
To run for Union office only with the support of the caucus;
To serve, if elected to Union office, in a manner consistent with Union / Caucus policies and to give full and faithful service in that office;
In other words, you can only disagree with them in private, you must support them publicly, you must vote for the candidates they endorse, you will only run for an office with their blessing, when in that office you will do as you are told to do.

You can read the entire post here.

AFT bully boys.

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The word I’m hearing from LA is that they will be discussing two issues this afternoon.

Not wanting to appear like a bunch of wusses compared to the NEA, the AFT leadership will allow a vote on Arne Duncan. A call for his resignation or firing is likely to pass.

They will also discuss two proposals on Common Core.

One is from the CTU and would put the AFT on record as opposing it.

The other is from Randi Weingarten and continues support for Common Core, only admits it needs fixing. Her proposal will pass.

You might think that the willingness to discuss the Common Core State Standards suggests an AFT that is slightly more democratic than the NEA, which allowed little discussion of the Common Core.

Except that Chicago delegates are telling me that the AFT is using bully-boy tactics to shut down the CTU proposal, physically pushing CTU delegates out of their seats and away from the microphone.

“It’s a dog pack out here,” one delegate messaged me.

“A convention delegate representing 30,000 shouldn’t need shin guards,” wrote another.