Washington Teachers' Union President George Parker, who negotiated a lucrative contract for his members earlier this year but was unable to prevent the launch of a controversial new evaluation system introduced by former chancellor Michelle A. Rhee, lost his job Tuesday.
Parker's run-off loss to General Vice President Nathan Saunders, his most vociferous union critic, could trigger a new period of labor unrest in the D.C. public school system.
It was just eight months ago that the District and the union reached agreement on a game-changing contract that took two-and-a-half years and the services of a mediator to finalize. The pact gave teachers a 21 percent raise over five years - with additional money available through a performance pay system - but also weakened seniority and other traditional job protections.
With his defeat by a margin of 556 to 480, Parker joins Rhee and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) as the third major figure to effectively be forced from office by political fallout from the 2007-2010 school-reform movement.
"Clearly the votes speak for themselves. That's a reality I accept," said Parker, 60, who has served as union president since early 2005. He said his campaign fell victim to apathy - turnout was about 25 percent of union membership - and anger from a segment of teachers over his support for some of the changes under Rhee.
"I think any union president that is pushing and getting in front of reform, you take a risk, and I took a risk," Parker said. "I don't feel bad about any of the decisions because I think ultimately to improve education in this country, union presidents are going to have to get in front of reform."
Saunders, 45, who will become president effective Wednesday for a three-year term, charged in his campaign that Parker gave up too much to Rhee at the bargaining table, with contract provisions that include more latitude for principals in hiring decisions. He also said Parker did too little to prevent Rhee's launch of IMPACT, the assessment system that dramatically shifted the way teachers are evaluated.
Saunders, who narrowly defeated Parker in a first round of balloting last month but failed to win a 51 percent majority, said D.C. teachers sent a firm message.
"The teachers are very clear about what they want," Saunders said. "Clearly this is a race about job security and about IMPACT."
Indeed it is.
It is also about "reform."
Union leaders who sell out their memberships to the corporate interests are getting taken down these days.
First Karen Lewis won in Chicago.
Now Saunders in D.C.
Teachers have been scapegoated for all the problems in public schools, and rather than fight these people, our union leaders have invited these scapegoats into the inner union sanctum to talk to us and sell us on "reform."
Weingarten invited Bill Gates to talk to the AFT membership in Seattle even though this vulture philanthropist has declared war on unionized teachers and proposed doing away with seniority protections, tenure, and salary steps and has promoted using test scores as the most important means to pay and evaluate teachers.
Given her track record at both the UFT and the AFT, Weingarten ought to go the way of Parker.
She ought to go JUST FOR SEATTLE.
As for Mulgrew and the UFT leadership, this victory by union insurgents, along with the Lewis victory in Chicago, serves notice - sell outs are getting voted out.
You already sold us out on teacher evaluations tied to test scores and on the charter cap and the Race to the Top jive, Mr. Mulgrew. And there are a lot of disgruntled and demoralized teachers out there angry at the union for caving to the corporate interests and Bloomberg and Obama.
Couple more sell outs and you could, despite your cronyism and corrosive clutch on power, go the way of Parker in D.C.
And wouldn't that be a good thing for NYC teachers?