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Cowardice in the Face of Hate – or how someone made me miss Randi Weingarten

June 16, 2017 pm30 10:41 pm

Randi Weingarten was a lousy UFT president. We never should have had a non-teacher as president. But that’s relatively minor. When she left, the union was far weaker than when she arrived. And that is huge.  Some of the details:  Under her tenure our big high schools were broken up, weakening the union, and making education WORSE for many students. And she didn’t just watch it happen, she participated.  Under her tenure, we had the 2005 contract, full of give-backs, rammed down our throats. The damage done in that “deal” lives with us today; seniority, innocent before being proven guilty, right to grieve… and the list goes on.

But there were positives. And one that stands out: on political endorsements we started considering where politicians stood on “human rights” (mostly revolved around gay and lesbian issues). We stopped supporting Dov Hikind and Serph Maltese and their ilk, just because they voted the right way on Political Action’s checklist. If they stood for hate, we wouldn’t stand with them. This was a battle. Previously the UFT supported incumbents mostly for being incumbents, checking a small number of votes, and not looking at their record beyond. That’s pretty lousy. But under Randi, we fixed that. Or I thought we did.

Fernando Cabrera peddles hate. I’m not going to say “homophobic” – let you decide. Maybe we should have known in 2009 when we endorsed him for City Council. Maybe we should have known in 2013 when we endorsed him for City Council. But in 2014, he announced it loud and clear. In Uganda.

Here’s the video:

“Godly people are in government. Gay marriage is not accepted in this country. Even when the United States of America has put pressure and has told Uganda, ‘We’re not going to fund you anymore unless you allow gay marriage.’ And they have stood in their place. Why? Because the Christians have assumed the place of decision-making for the nation.  Abortions are illegal here. Things that Christians really stand for. Why? Because the Christians here took the opportunity to take their rightful place. So now the city here is rejoicing.”

Here’s gay city councilpeople denouncing Cabrera:

I spoke at the UFT Exec Board on June 5, 2017, against the proposed endorsement of Cabrera for the 14th City Council District (west Bronx, roughly Kingsbridge down to Tremont). Paul Egan’s defense of Cabrera was weak, and came down to saying that we don’t endorse on a candidate’s personal beliefs, but on where they voted on the checklist. But members of the Exec Board, Unity members who usually vote lock step as their superiors tell them, remembered that we no longer use the checklist method of endorsement when “human rights” is at issue. Several abstained (silently). And one broke ranks and voted no, a rare act from a member of this top-down caucus. The endorsement of Cabrera must have passed about 45 – 7, far closer than they are used to.

At the Delegate Assembly Wednesday June 14 I raised the same objections (some smaller issues, but essentially, he does not share our values, and in the age of Trump he will be empowered to act on his hate). This time Mulgrew was chairing, and he did not call for a separate vote on Cabrera, instead voting simultaneously on a dozen races, mostly non-controversial. UFT practice is to call for a separate vote when there has been an objection. I tried to call a point of order, he called me out of order. Afterwards he said he realized he should have divided the vote.

Occam’s Razor. Which is more likely? The UFT president momentarily forgot a procedure that he has watched others carry out, and that he has carried out himself, many times? Or, having heard that Unity had trouble keeping its votes in the Exec Board, he was afraid to allow delegates to vote on Cabrera alone, fearing an embarrassingly close vote, or even an overturn of Political Action’s choice?

You can decide for yourself. Me, for the first time in a long time, maybe ever, I miss Randi.


7 Comments leave one →
  1. Charles Spinner permalink
    June 19, 2017 pm30 1:40 pm 1:40 pm

    If you did not repeat old, often disproven lies about Randi Weingarten, such as how she was not a teacher, I might be more inclined to believe what you had to say. Simple searches of Facebook and You Tube demonstrate that she was not only a teacher, but a very good one at that.

    Posted by AFT – American Federation of Teachers on Friday, September 2, 2011

    • June 19, 2017 pm30 2:45 pm 2:45 pm

      Sir, you’ve missed the point.

      Even though I have little respect for Weingarten’s leadership –
      and even though I don’t believe the self-serving statements by the sinister Dr. Casey and others that you linked –
      and in spite of what I wrote about Randi –

      – under her the UFT stopped endorsing homophobes, a policy that Mulgrew sadly has not chosen to continue

  2. Charles Spinner permalink
    June 21, 2017 pm30 5:31 pm 5:31 pm

    I think you missed my point. I have not the slightest brief for homophobic politicians, and I would be quite unhappy if the UFT is supporting one. But you are undermining your credibility as a messenger when you repeat proven falsehoods, and then double down when you are challenged, rather than conceding that you were in error. Do you expect your readers to believe that the two former students who speak so eloquently on Randi as their teachers are self-serving liars? Do you expect you readers to believe that all of the former students, former teacher colleagues and former supervisors who signed that letter are self-serving liars? Can you muster nothing better than name calling people you disagree with as sinister? None of this makes me feel confident that your account of the endorsement can be trusted.

    • June 21, 2017 pm30 8:38 pm 8:38 pm

      The UFT endorsed a homophobe, but you are more concerned that a lawyer who taught part time for a while (but never supported herself through her teaching, never acted as if it were her primary avocation, and would not have gone back to the classroom if other career paths had ended) is being called a non-teacher?

      Fact one – UFT endorsed Cabrera (see cut and paste of exec board minutes, below)
      Fact two – Cabrera is a homophobe (see YouTube link, at the bottom

      Motion: To recommend to the Delegate Assembly the following endorsement recommendations for
      the upcoming New York City Council elections:

      NYC Council

      Dist Name Borough
      02 Carlina Rivera Manhattan
      05 Ben Kallos Manhattan
      14 Fernando Cabrera Bronx
      40 Mathieu Eugene Brooklyn
      41 Alika Ampre-Samuel Brooklyn
      48 Kyle Yaeger Brooklyn
      50 Steven Matteo Staten Island

      Motion: To recommend the endorsment of Francisco Moya for the 21st city council district in Queens.


      Motion: To recommend the endorsement of the candidates presented above in the upcoming New York City Council elections including Francisco Moya and excluding Fernando Cabrera.


      Motion: To recommend the endorsement of Fernando Cabrera for the 14th city council district in the Bronx.


      Cabrera video

  3. June 25, 2017 am30 9:11 am 9:11 am

    “In addition to her work as a lawyer and leader for teacher unions, Weingarten also has direct teaching experience, having taught history at Clara Barton High School in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, from 1991 to 1997.”
    I found this in an article from Jewish Women’s Archive. It doesn’t mean she’s any less culpable in the weakening of the UFT. It appears that subsequent leadership hasn’t sought recovery of the union’ s power either

    • June 25, 2017 am30 9:15 am 9:15 am

      It’s true. She taught full-time one term. It was resume building. It’s certainly not her career.

      I give her credit for very little, and blame for a lot. But yes, subsequent leadership has not fixed much (any?) of the mess.

      And in this instance, ending endorsements for openly anti-gay politicians, she did something positive that subsequent leadership has decided to forget about.

  4. geoffS permalink
    August 2, 2017 am31 8:22 am 8:22 am

    It is hard to watch that YT clip of Cabrera and believe that their is room for him on City Council.

    Reading these comments, it seems that people are reading this article and defending RW and whether or not she was a teacher. Different points of view are important, but it is clear to me that RW’s employment history is not the point of the article. JD2718 makes this point in response.

    Throughout our country at all levels, the democratic and open process is being undermined by executive sessions and over-rulings in order to make agendas fit what might be unpopular decisions — if ever allowed to see the light of day. I am a former NYC teacher now in Maine, and this is happening here at local town level all the way to Gov. office. This is the point of this article — a teacher tries to stand up and say we should not be supporting this homophobic person and gets railroaded. Not cool.

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