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AFT 2014 Convention – Monday

July 15, 2014 pm31 12:01 pm

1. Enough Press

This is (barring some odd tangent) my last AFT Convention post. Here’s the others: Friday – SaturdaySunday.

And yesterday was another busy “tweeting” day, well morning. If you are curious, here’s the handle once again: @jd2718x . My twitter account saw more action this weekend than in the previous three months. One Unity delegate (and full-timer) joked as I passed him on the way to the bathroom that I needed to get back up front and get back to work. Others noticed that I looked a bit tired (it really was a bit draining). And a Unity retiree who I know slightly, seeing the fatigue on my face, offered to make me her guest in two years. (I know I can register myself as a visitor, but it was a really nice gesture).

2. Ukraine

I’d been waiting for this. The AFT is famous for pro-war resolutions, and despite their protestations, their draft Ukraine resolution was another example. I heard, and this was at least a little heartening, that it had only squeaked out of committee by two votes. And I expected, despite the odds, a fierce debate.

Yesterday I wrote:

“the AFT has a long, ugly pro-war history (they were Kerryishly for the Viet Nam war before they were against it, a dozen years ago my local passed a blood-curdling “let’s invade Afghanistan, because we need to invade someone” resolution, and just four years ago the AFT passed a blueprint for justification of a war they clearly were hoping the US would launch against Iran). This time? Pro-war resolution on Ukraine. Look for it to pass, but in a hot debate.”

But a funny thing happened. There was some sort of agreement, and the Cold War reso was replaced by a substitute, introduced and strongly motivated by a math teacher, PSC-CUNY delegate Glenn Kissack. The substitute dropped support to the current Ukrainian government. It added opposition to IMF-imposed austerity. It added support for labor rights for Ukrainian teachers. The Whereas’s (preamble) in the substitute, among other things, pointed harsh fingers at the nationalist right wing parties, Right Sector and Svoboda. That was too much, Shanker Institute Administrator Leo Casey rose to swallow the new resolution, but asked to blank the entire preamble, and PSC-CUNY President Barbara Bowen generously agreed.

This was one of two places in the Convention where something better than what the leadership proposed was passed, and clearly the more important. (The other was getting a symbolic anti-Duncan resolution). The Ukraine resolution is not a resolution the State Department would be comfortable with. Excellent.

3. Speakers

Two speakers stood out on Monday – the NEA’s new president Lily Eskelsen García and the AFT’s new Executive Vice President, Mary Cathryn Ricker.

Lily Eskelsen García spoke plainly, and well. She struck good teacher chords, good labor chords, and was genuinely funny.

Best:  “When I die, I would like to die in a faculty meeting. The transition between life and death would be so subtle.”

But she hammered reformers, and testing, and sounded as militant as anyone who’d addressed the assembly.

I wasn’t taking notes when Mary Cathryn Ricker spoke. I had moved to the back, bag over my shoulder, watching my phone, waiting for my ride to call. But as I caught some of her words, my focus was pulled back to the stage (or the screens, I guess). She is from Minnesota, and had been involved with the St. Paul local’s militancy, and so it should have not been a surprise that it was a real labor speech, and kind of tough, and I know it doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but it was a good last note to AFT14.

4. Election Results

The Progressive Caucus (which binds many major locals to UFT/Unity, and loosely ties some others, prominently CTU and PSC-CUNY) won an overwhelming majority – on the order of 97-98% over perennial opposition BAMN. Of some interest, Mary Cathryn Ricker received the highest number of votes. More interestingly, while the vast majority of votes are slate votes, there are enough votes for individual vice presidents to see a difference – and indeed CTU and PSC-CUNY presidents Lewis and Bowen received more votes than any of the other vice presidents, outpolling the last VP by about twenty thousand weighted votes each.

5. And then?  I visited the La Brea Tar Pits and the Page Museum, had lunch in Little Ethiopa, and flew to Tucson for a day and a half of sightseeing – which I need to get started on!

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