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Notes about NY State United Teachers Representative Assembly (2009, Buffalo)

April 5, 2009 pm30 9:26 pm

In the past I’ve let national and state teachers conventions pass by without comment, but two things caught my eye this time.

on Flexibility over anti-teacher, anti-union reform, and on Afghanistan, RA disappoints

1. Flexibility. The Weingarten remarks (summarized here). In particular, Don’t reject reform ideas out of hand, she said, but instead

“take a fresh look at some of the more divisive issues in education. … Let’s be the ones who advance the smart approach – the way that is good for kids and fair to teachers.”

Because her words are often taken as policy, this speech may make it harder to defend teachers’ rights.

This willingness to deal on almost any idea at any time has cost us dearly in New York. Opposition to “merit pay” was pared back to opposition to “individual merit pay” allowing schools to get chunks of money that can be and probably is often divided according to test scores. Even on tenure, Article 17 Section F opens a door (voluntary buyout of ATRs) that should not have been opened. Our famous flexibility on charters has created a growing pool of non-union schools in NYC, in the face of clear existing evidence across the country that it is the billionaires who control the charter school agenda.

When their teeth marks are all over our fingers, it’s not the time to extend a hand in compromise. Look at their abuse of transfers, their violations of the parking agreement (lousy as that was), their open flouting of the contract.

And the divisive issues? They are divisive because the other side tries to get us, tries to take back union gains. It is the billionaires and superintendents, not teachers and unions, who create these issues. Pay scales, tenure, work rules… all well-established by contracts across the country. It is the billionaires and their politicians (where they buy them) or their elected positions and appointees (where they buy the positions and make direct appointments) who are divisive.

2. Afghanistan.

Look, I don’t write much about international politics, but I don’t hide my sympathies, either.

So at the RA the PSC (my other union, the Professional Staff Congress, AFT affiliate representing City University professors and other titles at the City University of New York) brings a resolution against the war in Afghanistan. It was meekly written, looks like a committee rewrite, but the intent was clear. It called for NYSUT to revitalize the anti-war movement and convey to Congress its opposition.  Which would have been good. This war should be ended, the sooner the better.

Easy, right? Nope. The UFT’s Unity Caucus favors the war.

They mix together conflicting claims. On the one hand, they argue against antagonizing Obama. On the other, they argue that the war is a good war. And they are wrong twice. NYC UFT HS VP Casey said:

We do not need to pick a fight with the Obama administration on the wrong issue at the wrong time.

But the presentations and other speakers openly supported the war, including showing decade-old anti-Taliban video and making strong reference to 9/11, implying a direct link. In fact, the UFT took a pro-War position on Afghanistan back in 2001. At a spine-chilling DA that fall union leaders waved gun, flag, and blood to work the delegates into an orgy of bellicosity. To my knowledge, the resolution from that day has never been withdrawn or superseded.

Isn’t  ironic that Obama supporters are calling for an end to that war, while Hillary Clinton supporters are arguing that it is the wrong time to criticize Obama? Hmmph.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Chaz permalink
    April 6, 2009 am30 12:28 am 12:28 am

    My major concern is that Randi Wiengarten’s statement how we need to work with the phony reformers who just want to destroy teacher tenure, due process rights, and give total control to the Administration.


  1. Teacher unionist support for Afghan war is disturbing. « Fred Klonsky’s blog
  2. Bronx Science math teachers finally get their day « JD2718

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