Sunday, December 28, 2014

Union Thugs or Union Slugs? Teacher Unions and Social Justice

Charged with Impersonating a Union Official

A lot of talk about Social Justice and unions these days. More specifically, the talk I am hearing that I don't dig is that unions are responsible for promoting social justice. And I guess in this Gilded Age Deux in which we find ourselves taken hostage -- thanks to the powers of Oligarchy and unrepresentative representative government -- somebody needs to take up the social justice cause. My main reservation on the notion of unions carrying this torch is what happens to the day to day business for which unions were founded if we throw ourselves headlong into a laundry list of causes? If you know me at all you probably have a pretty good guess where this is headed and if you are guessing I am about to hold up Randi Weingarten as Exhibit A you made a good guess.

As President of the American Federation of Teachers  Randi Weingarten's endless jet setting, flitting and gadflying from brush fire to brush fire is the Pearson issued textbook case of what can go wrong when a union person forgets the purpose of her professional raison d'etre and starts clipping cause coupons from the newspaper. While Gubner Andy Cuomo's interminable posturing and shit talking about teachers conjures up images of a belligerent old cuss on his back porch, sputtering tobacco juice and loading up the Winchester, Randi chooses to respond to his vitriol with a "personal letter." Translation: "Nothing to see here folks, keep it moving..." He snorted at it and hit "delete" halfway through the first paragraph. This was after she Weinsplained Andy's promise to take down the last monopoly standing (teacher's unions) by writing it all off to the poor dear being tired and cranky from the campaign.  As our friend RBE at Perdido St. informs us Randi sat on her hands, mouth agape in doltish wonder as Cuomo threw high and inside at teachers at a Forbes gathering for plutocrats.  I won't belabor the traitorous nature of Randi making robocalls on behalf of Kathy Hochul, Cuomo's running mate, when it appeared Tim Wu was in striking distance of winning the primary. You probably have forgotten Tim by now or at least that's what Randi and the NYSUT Revivers who refused to endorse him and Zephyr Teachout are hoping. This is the core of my beef with the social justice as practiced in our current national union situation. Weingarten is like that teacher we all know who does the yearbook, the AV room, bus duty, lunch duty, bake sales, book sales, bulletin boards in the lobby, organizes the assemblies and makes the morning announcements all to get out of actually doing her job and teaching kids. When she should have been preparing to return the shot Cuomo fired across her bow she was tweeting about the Clinton Global Initiative or dropping in for cake at Sharpton's birthday party. In construction it's called it fucking the dog. In Special Ed. we call it "avoidance behavior."

 In the sound bytten monochromatic paradigm we call the 21st Century teachers can't afford tone deaf leadership. We can't afford to be led around by the nose by so called leadership who think it's good policy to hobnob with divisive characters like Sharpton or involve us in actions that can be viewed as attacking members of another union, especially when that union is made up of cops. In a better world where union leadership demonstrated some grasp of the machinations in play all around them, where representing teacher's rights was job one, where outsiders might actually be tempted to use the phrase "union thug" I think we'd be in a better position to spend more energy on social justice. Closer to home here in New York the Revivers have screwed their courage to the sticking point and mustered the will to call Governor Cuomo "clueless" in a strongly worded letter. If you know all the laugh lines in the movie Titanic, and you should there are only 3 I think, you'll appreciate the power of Karen McWho's "strongly worded letter."

(On a related note who's thrilled to hear that NYSUT is accepting "seats at the table" of a Cuomo New Year's Eve party again? Seems the table full of seats they blew $10K on last year for Andrew's Billy Joel birthday party hasn't exactly gained us any traction with Albany's lead sociopath.)

The missing link who connects NYSUT to AFT  via UFT also chimed in with his own late to the party rhetoric. Iron Mike Mulgrew, the guy who loves CCSS so much, from outside the classroom mind you, spit some pretty good lines dropping a Hunger Games reference on Cuomo and mentioning hedge funders, class sizes, privatizers etc. Never mind that Mulgrew helped orchestrate the date rape of WFP in bending them over to endorse Cuomo. Never mind that he agreed to a shitty contract that essentially throws ATR's out the moon door. Never mind that he threatens violence against anyone who'd try to take away his common core, even though he is not subjected to any of its moronic tedium or the pain of collateral mass teacher firings CCSS and its handlers aspire to promote. Mulgrew, like Karen McWho, like Weingarten is free to spout off all he wants about Hunger Games, Cluelessness and Rescuing the Nigerian Schoolgirls. Vent til you feel better folks.  Doctors, on the other hand, have to take an oath that opens with "First, do no harm." We need a similar oath for our union leaders that begins, "First, do your job." All any of us asks of our so called union leadership is that they do their damned job and protect teachers rights.  First demonstrate even a marginal proficiency in doing the job you are paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to do. Then we can talk about justice for all. 


  1. Andy Cuomo will be here on New Year's Day to give his inaugural speech at the History Museum. Would like to see large numbers of teachers turn up and turn their backs to him.

  2. Banking On EducationDecember 28, 2014 at 11:10 PM

    Andy Cuomo will be here in Buffalo on New Year's Day to give his inaugural speech at the History Museum. Would be nice to see large numbers of teachers turn up and turn their backs on him.

  3. Here are the principles of Social Justice Unionism
    notice number 1
    I think we are in full agreement-just using different terms

    -Unapologetically defend wages and working conditions of public school educators. -Teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions.
    - Stand up for students, the teaching profession, and an equal and nurturing education that embraces the whole child.
    - Defend public education—the only educational institution in our communities that has the capacity, commitment, and legal obligation to serve all children.
    -Forge alliances with parents and community organizations to work for better schools and for social justice in the entire community.
    - Build democratic union structures that encourage members to be organizers and active participants.