In the context of race I recently advised someone:
- Speak the Truth
- Work for Change
- It’s not about you
I need to heed my own words. Primarily about race. But about other forms of discrimination as well. Given the current political climate, how could I see xenophobia and anti-immigrant propaganda, from allies, and not speak?
A week ago there was a coup-attempt in Turkey. And a counter-coup by the government, clearing opponents out of the armed forces, the judiciary, higher education, and schools. And the government named the supporters of Fethullah Gülen as being behind the coup, and demanded his extradition from the US.
Now, Gülen runs charter schools in the US. Many of us oppose charter schools – White Hat, Success, Democracy Prep, etc, etc. No issue so far.
But when public education advocates don’t write “There should not be charter schools” and instead write “Fethullah Gülen should not be operating American charter schools” – I need to call that out. Anti-immigrant appeals are fashionable in some places. NOT HERE.
The link is to Mercedes Schneider, but there has been much more of this on Twitter and Facebook and listserves and I assume just about everywhere. And it should stop.
AFT Convention 2016. Ended three days ago. What do I take away from Minneapolis?
This was a better convention then my two previous. It was very different from my two previous, 2010 and 2014.
- There was a presidential endorsement. Which meant a lot of supporting speakers, the usual cast of politicians, plus the candidate. That was different, neither better nor worse, just what the AFT does. But it ran through the convention, from the first day to the last, with regular digs at the RNC in Cleveland.
- Social Justice. Fairness. Equality. Fight back against hospital consolidation (and conglomeration). ¡Si se puede! Remove block on funding for research on gun violence. Support work of the AFT Racial Equity Task Force. No more Flints. Stand with Planned Parenthood. Girls and Young women’s education. And a special order of for safe communities and racial justice (these should have been separate resolutions. I mentioned in a previous post that the motivation for this was the most electric speech of the convention).
- Economic Justice. Against income inequality. Oppose the TPP. Crackdown on offshore tax havens. End out-of-control drug prices. Rein in abusive medical billing and crippling debt. Overturn Citizens United. Fight against student loan debt. Ending garnishing social security to pay student debt. Planning for the wave of state and local public employee retirements. Paid sick days. More accurate COLA for Social Security. Protect and expand the Social Security Safety net. Full funding.
- Fighting in education and nursing. Fight against unfair employment practices in higher education. Sepsis awareness. Professional standards for healthcare workers. Support, respect PSRPs. Summer nutrition programs. Safe schools for all. Organizing (three resolutions)
- No hot K-12 issues. My previous two conventions were dominated by the ruling caucus from the UFT, Unity, introducing and fighting for pro-reform k-12 resolutions. Last convention Michael Mulgrew threatened to punch anyone who tried to take away “Common Core.” This time? Nothing like that. The ESSA resolution was positive/neutral. And the CTE resolution was positive. And the AROS resolution got a lot of attention from progressive unionists.
ESSA Resolution Highlights: Fight for Neighborhood Schools (what a change that would be for NYC), elevate teacher voice, framework of indicators broader than test scores, better and fewer tests, better teacher evaluation / multiple measures / no value added (still not good enough, but a huge step back from a few years ago), good PD (ugh)…
What is AROS? Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools. It coordinates union/community action in support of public schools, and has organized two major national “walk-ins” (not walk-outs). The resolution promises support for local action, and builds for coordinated local action involving at least 1000 schools in October.
An equivocal charter resolution did not come to the floor. The AFT leadership is not ready yet to oppose charters (or oppose high stakes testing). But they did have the sense not to push their unpopular positions forward and disrupt the proceedings.
Reasonable resolutions are one thing, undoing the damage the AFT contributed to by trying to compromise with the reformers over the last decade is another. We are not there yet.
- More negotiating in committee, or outside of committee, less yelling on the convention floor. More talking and testifying on the floor. That’s just what happens when there’s fewer hot issues. People got up and spoke to resolutions that might not have been paid much attention – and explained why they were important. It meant we heard from a lot of regular delegates, from all over the country. That was good, very good. There was only one, marginal caucus in opposition. Their procedural arguing got tiresome, but not disruptive.
- No pro-war resolutions. We had a resolution against the global privatization of education and public services, and an anti-Islamaphobia resolution. What a nice change from previous years when we had to listen to official speakers channel the war criminal Dr. Kissinger. Unfortunately, the resolution to support academics in Turkey did not make it to the floor. And as the convention opened, Turkey’s government was stretching their counter-coup into the schools and universities. That being said, the resolution would have done little more than raise awareness.
Summary: The AFT was consumed by the presidential endorsement, and kept the rest calm. The convention did a solid job on social justice, racial justice, and economic justice. The AFT is not yet ready to reverse course on the bad compromises they made with anti-public education reformers in the last decade plus, but they are slowly backing away.
Here is a link to many of the resolutions.
Here’s my tweets from the convention: @jd2718x
Here’s my blog posts:
- AFT Convention 2016 – Days 3 and 4
- AFT Convention 2016 – Meeting the President
- AFT Convention 2016 – Day 2
- AFT Convention 2016 – Day 1
- AFT Convention 2016 – Prequel Chicago
There’s one more post coming – about visiting Minneapolis, about meeting people, about sightseeing, about food, about conversations (don’t worry, if you are reading this, I’m not writing about that conversation)… but this is it on the big issue politics.
AFT Convention 2016 wrapped up in Minneapolis yesterday. Here’s a little about the last day and a half.
A pattern began to develop. Each resolution was followed by a little positive discussion, perhaps an attempt at an amendment, and the question was quickly called. This was both good, ok, and not so good.
It was good because these were, on the whole, solid resolutions. Attack Economic Inequality. Oppose TPP. Crackdown on Offshore Tax Havens. Against out of control Prescription Drug Prices. Rein in abusive medical billing and crippling debt. Fight back against consolidation in health care. ¡Si Se Puede! Remove the Block on Funding for Gun Violence Research. Overturn Citizens United. The Fight Against Student Loan Debt. Legislative Initiative to Rectify Unfair and Detrimental Employment Practices in Higher Education. End the Garnishment of Social Security to pay Student Loan Debt (this really happens? outrageous!) Defeating the Global Movement to Privatize Education and Public Services. Immigration and Islamaphobia. Hand in Hand (about an integrated Israeli school).
This was also good because much compromise was reached in advance, in committee. But there’s an aspect to this that’s just ok – those compromises did not get reported out, and it meant that delegates got a slightly incomplete picture.
Calling the question fast was not so good. While it was a forgone conclusion that each resolution would pass, it was important for delegates to hear WHY the resolutions mattered – and delegates often rose to passionately explain exactly that. Cutting off discussion early stopped people from sharing what mattered to them. Also, there were amendments, and while some were off-base, several were not, and calling the question early not only prevented them being discussed, it also prevented some of them from being heard. On several occasions Randi Weingarten intervened to rescue a discussion that was being cut short, but she was left in the awkward position of violating the rules of order to do so. Finally, there was one AFT VP who consistently called the question early, and while much of the audience consistently cheered him, the whole act, both calling and cheering, seemed more like a joke and less like what we expect from thoughtful representatives.
There were special orders of business. A Special Order of Business to support Mexican Teachers’ Rights passed, but with passionate opposition from a delegate who objected to calling on the SNTE and CNTE to collaborate. SNTE, she alleged, collaborated with the government against the CNTE, the dissident union which is being repressed. And EON/BAMN tried to introduce several Special orders of business, none added to the agenda, as their speakers began to frustrate many of the delegates with their tactics.
And then there was the “Fighting for Safe Communities and Racial Justice for our Citizens and our First Responders” special order. LeRoy Barr gave the best speech of the entire convention. First, the issue, at least in my mind, overrode much of the others that were being discussed, maybe all of the others. This country has “made much progress” but still fails miserably here. Further, LeRoy spoke powerfully, and you felt the room move. His timing kept the delegates attention riveted. His volume, loud here, quiet as he read names, and names, and names, added to the effect. We will remember that speech for a long, long time. (I’m inquiring to see if there is video)
Beatrice Lumpkin, a veteran of … I missed it … 60 years? More? About 90 years old? Gave a talk that started me thinking “that’s sweet” and then wowed me with her radical unionism and commitment to justice. I liked her talking about Hunter College and CIO organizing, but I liked it even more when she talked about Black Lives Matter.
Michael Mulgrew got called up to speak about organizing – although I’m not sure he addressed that topic. He did ask delegates to tweet out the hashtag #ApologizetoMyLittlePony for Trump accusing Michelle Obama of plagiarizing (I did tweet it), and then led the delegates in singing happy birthday to Karen Lewis, President of Chicago Teachers Union, AFT Local 1 (but she was not there to hear it.)
Day 3 ended with AFT elections – the room was cleared, and only delegates could return. Arthur Goldstein and I wandered upstairs and found a nice vacant glass-domed vestibule that gave a view into downtown.
Day 4 was rapid-fire. Election results (Randi Weingarten reelected with 98%) A few speakers, including Dolores Huerta, co-founder of the United Farm Workers. Six committees. Eighteen resolutions. And then Solidarity Forever, and we were done.
I tweeted a bunch. You can find them here.
Many of the resolutions were published. You can find them here.
And I will do a wrap-up in a day or so. And maybe a travelogue. Maybe not, since I didn’t do much.
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.
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.
AFT Convention 2016. Day 3 will start in a few hours. I’m writing a post each day from Minneapolis. Day 2:
I’m still “tweeting” – little snippets, sometimes with a snapshot. You can follow me @jd2718x
On Day 1 the speakers, including Hillary Rodham Clinton, were what I could see, the business of the AFT – the action – took place in committee, where I could not go. On Day 2 most of the “action” was on the convention floor.
I missed the credentials report, but there’s about 2600 delegates.
Dues increases passed, and more money for a solidarity fund set aside as well.
The human rights amendment all passed – Racial Equity, Against Deportation, and School Safety and Educational Opportunity for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Questioning Students.
Mark Dayton, governor of Minnesota, spoke, and was well received. My favorite line? “If our Navy were underperforming, we would set up charter navies, or homeschool our naval commanders?”
Michael Mulgrew motivated the endorsement of Hillary Clinton, which passed – I’m guessing here – over 95%, maybe 97-98%
The hot part of Day 2 was not on the floor. The St. Paul Federation of Teachers and a neighborhood organization organized a march from the convention center to a downtown Minneapolis bank:
Please join educators from the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers, and Minneapolis Federation of Teachers along with community and labor allies to mourn the unjust killing of Philando Castile and demand justice for his life and for Black lives across the country.
The timing was tricky. The event was scheduled to start at 4:00. They were scheduled to step off at 4:30. And Randi was cooperating, all was good, until Randi announced that the convention was behind schedule and that the Educational Issues Resos would come up after the speaker from the Israeli Knesset. How could delegates do both? Speakers argued over the agenda, suggested moving the guest to after the business. Randi bickered. CTU President Jesse Sharkey did it right when he said for delegates who wanted to march AND to participate in the ed issues debate, what did Randi suggest. She responded that if delegates left, and there was not a quorum, then business would not continue. How do you reason with that? Then she put the MoK on for a longish talk (I left).
I do not know much about the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, but that resolution had support from UTLA and CTU and the Boston Federation of Teachers and others, seeking to join with local communities in struggles for public education and our schools. I have the impression that this is the direction that some of our more progressive locals want to move in. A nice detail from debate – a delegate from LA, Cecily Myart-Cruz, wanted badly to speak, and felt like she was unfairly cut off (it was just procedure, but in the moment must have seemed unfair). CTU President Jesse Sharkey was the next speaker called on, and he ceded his time to Myart-Cruz, who then spoke with passion. Class act, Sharkey.
Later that evening I went to a bar for drinks and talks with members of rank and file caucuses. I wanted to see my Minneapolis friends, the ones I met on in Havana in 2014. But I also met a bunch of people from Chicago, and from other locals around the country. And the MORE people were there, Jia Lee spoke, and it’s been nice having easy conversation with my new allies.
AFT Convention 2016. Day 2 is about to start. I’ll write a post each day I’m out here in Minneapolis. Here’s Day 1:
Came in during the preliminaries, registered as a visitor, made my way into the hall, Larry Carter, UTNO president, now Louisiana Federation President, was the first to say hi. Cool. I met Larry 8 years ago, as an AFT volunteer in New Orleans. They got it tough in NOLA, and they keep fighting.
I met up with Lisa and Gladys from MORE in New York City, and began watching. Randi Weingarten was giving a meat and potatoes speech, nothing stood out, except her applause line for Hillary Clinton only got about half of the room standing, and not very loud. She asked for a warm welcome when Clinton arrived.
I checked in on Twitter. I don’t tweet well, but my volume is not bad: about 40 tweets yesterday. You can follow me @jd2718x if you really want to.
And then there were committee meetings, and nothing for non-delegates to do. I got my press credential (blogging).
Met other people I hadn’t seen, mostly in two years. Penny from the summer volunteer program. Tom who went door to door for Obama with us in Philly in 2008. Kombiz. Bobbie who disagrees with me about politics, but who’s really on the same page when it comes to geometry, and so on…
Found the other MORE people: Gloria, Jia, Norm, and Arthur. Arthur needed a real delegate to “vouch” for him to get his visitors pass – Manhattan HS DR Alice O’Neil helped out. And then the three of us, me, Norm, and Arthur, went around towards the press entrance. The whole audience was getting scanned, airport style. But the three of us? Personally searched, scanned and frisked by friendly secret service agents.
We entered the huge hall, and it was empty. We took seats with an obstructed view – the other press section was even further away. And we chatted. And wrote. And fidgeted. It was maybe 2:30. Slowly the room began to fill. The 4:30 start time came, and passed. And around 5:30 the show got going.
There were a series of warm-up speakers. Steve Zimmer, president of the UTLA school board (Los Angeles) did a nice job revving the audience up. (I couldn’t help thinking he looked like Peter Russo from House of Cards).
Al Franken was funny. He got into the weeds a bit, on education policy – but he knew what he was talking about. NCLB and ESSA, and testing. He had a nice riff on mental health in schools (but when I tweeted it, Susan DuFresne from Washington replied, nice stuff, but where’s the accountability from congress)
He also flubbed Randi’s name. Weingardner.
Arthur was worried about how hard it was for Amy Klobuchar, Minnesota’s senior senator, to follow Franken. No need. She’s been doing this a long time, has followed him, Al Franken, many times. She’s a top flight senate Democrat, and as of two weeks ago there was some Klobuchar Veepstakes speculation.
Klobuchar told stories about kids. Good speech stuff. She was funny – not as funny as Al Franken – but funny. Best line was about Wisconsin: “We love Wisconsin, because in Minnesota we can see Wisconsin from our porch.” Tell me she’s not interested in the VP slot! Delegates ate her up, applauded and cheered. But her second best response was when she thanked the Bernie Sanders supporters in the room – the cheering drowned her out, but leveled off when she thanked them for working for Hillary. And her biggest line was the wind up as she closed, asking for a commitment to work for Hillary.
Weingarten spoke. She’s just not a very good speaker, but at least this wasn’t embarrassing, like in LA two years ago. The delegates loved that Walter Mondale was in the hall, and gave him a standing ovation as he waved.
And then came Hillary Clinton. It must have been 6:30 or so that she went on. “Four and a half hours” Arthur said – “but it barely seems like three” I answered. There was no “half-standing ovation” this time – the crowd roared approval for her as she began. I made no attempt to capture the whole speech – here’s a few notes:
- When Clinton mentioned Philando Castile, the Black man killed here by police two weeks ago, protesters began a “Hands up! Don’t shoot!” chant. There were maybe a dozen protesters, and for a few seconds they distracted the audience, but Clinton kept speaking. A woman shouted “stop the deportations.” But the initial organized response was to out-shout them, which seemed more disruptive than the protest. Eventually they surrounded the protest signs with Hillary signs. The speech rolled on.
- Charters. Instead of the longer spiel she gave at the NEA, this was just one line, delivered quickly and with no pause so that there was no room for reaction: “Where there are great public charter schools we will learn from them.” You know what? It’s still bullshit. I’d like someone to show me what a good public school has copied from a charter school. Even better, since I know UFT people will have a response, how about one public school that has copied one thing from the UFT’s charter school. I’m not holding my breath.
- Progressive policy I – Free college tuition at public universities for families making less than $125k
- Progressive policy II – Constitutional Amendment to end Citizens United
- Progressive policy III – Universal health coverage. Is this new ground for her?
- The anti-Trump lines were among the best received.
And that’s it. A political speech. A little of who she is. A lot of what the audience wanted to hear. She does speak quite well.
Before Minneapolis, there was Chicago.
Minneapolis. 2016. AFT Convention 2016. Three out of four. AFT 2010, AFT 2014, and now AFT 2016. I’m a visitor. And a blogger-reporter. I’ll be posting one blog post each evening. But it’s too early for that.
This is a prequel-post. I am sitting in the press section, waiting for a former cabinet member and current candidate for president to address the hall. But I’m thinking of Chicago. Not Chicago 68, and not the Chicago Fire, but the Chicago of my last two days, vacation days, staying with Fred Klonsky and Anne Lowry Klonsky in Logan Square.
Great visit. We played “missed social cues” Sunday morning. No one was keeping score, but Anne clearly won. Sunday dinner at Logan Square. And the visit started the day before at Logan Square. Waiting for Fred by the El station, and what’s on my right? A Norwegian Church. And on my left? Prairie. Real prairie. Welcome to the Midwest.
Fred drove me out to Forest Park, Waldheim Cemetery. Saw the memorial to the Haymarket martyrs, heroes of labor, Elizabeth Gurley Flynn’s stone, and a field of graves of national and Chicago leaders of the Communist Party.
We drove through Hyde Park. Fred showed me where the first chain reaction took place (I got a photo) and where Obama’s house is (way too much security, couldn’t get close, no picture). We saw some Frank Lloyd Wright stuff, too.
The worst part of the trip has no photos. Miles of public housing on the south side were missing, knocked down by Rahm Emmanuel. The schools that served the projects? Miles of them. Empty. Half-empty. Taken over by privately run (charter) schools. The saddest? DuSable High School. Looks like it was THE high school for the Black Community on the south side. Half empty. Facing urban fields across the street, blank spaces where thousands used to live.
There was an unworldly good chicken curry dinner, Anne freshly ground and combined the spices. A good argument over Trump and the Republicans (is there still a national republican party?) And another argument over who to vote for. (If 99% of African Americans vote for Clinton, can you vote for someone else? And is the main threat, Trump, such a threat that the goal in this election is beating him by as much as possible?) And over the relative roles and importance of belief vs following the law in Judaism. Anne referred us to Karen Lewis, who expertly answered our questions with questions.
And there was Wrigley. My first visit inside the friendly confines, ever. Against Texas, a sellout, and Fred got us seats in section 503. The highest section. Deep deep deep left. Next section over? Rooftop of a building across the street. (one of which hosted a wedding. Vows were 15 minutes before the first pitch). Wrigley is a great stadium. Old, clunky, friendly, feels intimate. And even from section 503, great views. In fact, spectacular, panoramic views. Perfect for watching a home run sail out (Rangers, sorry). And for watching an acrobatic catch in the ivy.
With Lake Michigan in the background.
And that’s it. A two-day AFT/Minneapolis prequel.