Mexican-American hero and Union Man, Cesar Chavez.
Andy Rotherham of Eduwonk hates teacher unions. That’s a given.
But that in no way gives him permission to lie about the work of a great man, a Union Man.
I grew up in California. As a teenager I rode in car pools and car caravans to Salinas and Delano and Fresno to support the United Farm Workers. The fight to organize farm workers into the United Farm Workers union in the fields of California, along with the fight to end the war in Vietnam and the Southern Civil Rights Movement, were the great moral battles of the era.
Cesar Chavez, the leader of the UFW, was a Union Man.
But Andy Rotherham wants us to believe, like some BS death bed confession story, that Chavez once told a school choice guy in 1979, that he, Chavez, supported choice schools but was bribed by the AFT to keep quiet. Bribed for $200,000.
Chavez. The guy who stood up to the goons of the agri-business giants and county sheriffs and anti-union thugs was bought for a couple of bucks.
And then he reaches for that old American racist argument. Rotherham says that those who have exposed him and the other school privateers for desecrating the names of Chavez and Dr. Martin Luther King by naming non-union schools after them, that somehow we believe :
Anglo teachers’ union professionals have more claim on the legacy and name of Cesar Chavez than, just for instance, the daughter of Mexican migrant workers.
If the guy ever came close to a teacher union member or a teacher union professional (let alone immigrant farmworkers) he would see:
1. That all teacher union members and professionals aren’t Anglo.
2. That we do have a claim on the legacy and name of Cesar Chavez.
He was a Union Man.
Leo Casey responds to Rotherham:
Over at Eduwonk, Andy Rotherham thinks it is “preposterous” to suggest that unions have more of “a claim” on the legacy of Cesar Chavez than an anti-union Chicana daughter of migrant workers. But this is precisely the sort of shallow identity politics that Chavez so strongly opposed — the notion that one’s ethnic identity, one’s parentage, is more important than one’s substantive politics and one’s actual work in the world. Chavez’s unambiguous stand on this question was exactly the point of the anecdote I cited in the original post. The notion that Chavez would lend his name to an enterprise that opposes the right of its employees to organize into an union and bargain collectively, whether those employees be farmworkers or teachers, is one that can only rest on a complete misunderstanding of his life’s work for justice for all working people. The argument that he would have foregone the core principles of that life’s work simply because opposition to them came from a Chicana is beyond incredulous. There are also a great many teacher unionists of Latin American descent, including notable AFT leaders, who would take considerable exception to the notion that the union to which they belong is an “Anglo” institution.
Further, the notion that Chavez was a man whose principles could be bought for any amount of money, much less for $200,000 a year of AFT support for the United Farmworkers, is completely scurrilous. He led a life of great sacrifice for La Causa. Union solidarity may be a foreign concept to some, but in the AFT, it is a principle we hold dear — and that it why we have supported the UFW and other unions, when we could. We are proud of our solidarity work. That the claim of Chavez’s silence for money comes in the form of a report of a rumor of a personal conversation — none of it in the slightest verifiable — says just about everything that needs to be said on the subject.
And at Small Talk, my brother’s blog where the issue was first exposed:
Remember, I raised the question of how a school named after the great union leader Chavez, could bar teachers from union membership, even fire teachers because they tried to unionize, as they did at Cesar Chavez Academy in Detroit. Leo Casey at Edwize along with my brother PREAPres, picked up the story and deepened it. This led Andrew Rotherham at Eduwonk to go ballistic.
“It’s preposterous,” sputtered Rotherham, that anyone would dare challenge a charter school’s anti-union policies, especially one where he sits on the board of directors. Rotherham even tried to paint Chavez himself as a sellout who, he claims, told a choice advocate back in 1979, that he secretly supported a policy, but was afraid to say so because “the American Federation of Teachers would cut off his $200,000 yearly subsidy.”