Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Saturday, May 17, 2014

How Do We Counter The Sophisticated P.R. Operations Of The Corporate Deformers?

The battle over the UFT contract agreement has gotten me thinking about public relations and messaging.

Earlier I wrote a post asking people to start thinking through the p.r. war that is sure to come if the UFT contract agreement is voted down.

My argument basically was this:

Contracts are not negotiated in isolation of the political environment - what gets reported in the press, the propaganda that gets spewed, affects negotiations.

Even more importantly, it affects the kind of support teachers can get from the public on a whole host of things, not just contract negotiations, but school policies, charter vs. trad schools, etc.

We have to start to find effective ways to get our message out in the face of a hostile corporate print press and electronic news media.

This is true not just in this contract fight but in the fight against the corporate reform agenda and its proponents as a whole

What first spurred this on for me was watching the fight between Eva Moskowitz and Bill de Blasio.

De Blasio had the moral high ground here when his chancellor announced that three Success Academies co-locations were being canceled - one of which would have taken space away from special needs kids, another of which would have put young elementary school kids in the same building where high school kids rioted in the recent past.

Despite de Blasio inhabiting the moral high ground in this battle, Moskowitz went on a p.r. offensive worthy of a presidential campaign, reached out to Governor Andrew Cuomo and other charter-friendly politicians with entreaties and campaign cash and, in the end, thoroughly routed de Blasio.

Moskowitz managed to do what GOP consultant Karl Rove always said political campaigns should do - she made her own weakness into a strength and her opponents strength into a weakness.

Eva played the victim here, messaging to the public through press conferences and ads that played over and over that her "kids" were being thrown out onto the street by the charter-hating Mayor de Blasio.

The truth was, Eva was throwing deaf kids out of their school space, but de Blasio and Farina never got that message out to the public and wound up smeared as the villains in the charter wars.

This was a sophisticated and masterful p.r. operation, one that was most certainly helped by the $4 million+ Moskowitz and her hedge fundie friends could spend on ads.

Nonetheless we should not dismiss the masterfulness and sophistication of the Eva p.r. operation just because she had the money to get her message out.

Instead we must find ways to match the sophistication and masterfulness in the messaging wars against the deformers and their destructive agenda, and do it without the help of the money that Moskowitz has behind her.

We know we cannot count on the unions because they are playing for their own interests and those often do not coincide with the interests of teachers looking to protect traditional public schools, the teaching profession, etc.

I stand in awe of what Karen Lewis and CTU managed to do in Chicago, reaching out to parents in a long-term effort to find common cause against the deformers.

I see some of the same happening in the battle against Common Core, the Endless Testing regime and APPR teacher evaluations.

While many parents are not necessarily going to go out of their way to fight for fair evaluations for teachers, they show much more willingness to do so when it becomes apparent that APPR evaluations are behind so much of the Endless Testing.

When it was just teachers complaining about Common Core, the papers were pretty brutal toward CCSS critics.

But when parents joined the protests, suddenly the paper coverage got a lot more nuanced and fair (in Newsday in particular.)

I think there are some lessons here that we can use going forward as we try and combat the messaging of the deformers in the p.r. wars.

More and more, I am becoming convinced that we must get more sophisticated and masterful in how we approach the p.r. wars against the deform movement - not just in the contract battle, but in the whole "war" against corporate reform.

I know there is a lot of anger and fury among teachers that has been building up for over a decade.

I share this anger and fury with you.

I don't think coming from a place of anger and fury is a terribly effective way to actually get the outcomes we want, either short-term or long-term, however.

So, finding a way to channel our anger and fury and get a coherent message out despite the millions of dollars the other side has for p.r. - this must be our task going forward.


  1. You are delusional!! What have you been doing all these years---even Diane Ravitch's blog has not been able to make any great headway. The problem is we have a union that has misused not only our COPE money but our dues. When they supported mayoral control, VAM, and Gates, Common Core, and Danielson, the writing was on the wall. Mulgrew even supports Pearson taking over teacher certification. He was quoted in the Times.

    deBlasio IMHO is dead in the water because the UFT stayed silent when he was attacked by the forces of Eva and Cuomo. And it was a deliberate move on Mulgrew's part. Teachers are not activists otherwise they would not be supporting this contract that takes away due process rights which does not seem to concern you in the slightest.
    This union is constantly selling lipstick on a pig and if you are buying into it, so their PR will always trump everyone else.

    You say you are an advocate, and you have the right to vote any way you like. But your arguments are getting old and I for one think you have jumped the shark.

    1. De Blasio is dead in the water, in part, because he went into a fight w/ Eva Moskowitz w/out the proper arms. Yes, it's true the UFT didn't support him. But strength begets allies, and once it was clear that de Blaiso had gone into the fight completely outgunned, it was clear few would jump to his defense. That again speaks to HOW you go about a fight as much as the rightness of the fight.

    2. I don't understand your arguments. Are you saying regardless of what we do there is no hope, and thus we should just give up? Because it seems like trying harder to work with parents and spread the message again corporate deform is a much better strategy. ..

    3. Is somebody standing in for RBE...this can't be him

    4. No DOEnuts--in fact I am saying it's the parents who have been winning this war not the teachers because teachers are not by nature activists, at least here in NYC. Just the fact that they are selling out due process which is just the icing on the cake when it comes to our lack of rights. First it was transfer seniority rights, now anyone who is excessed will lose their due process. And as someone who lived through excessing, it can happen again especially when public school budgets are constantly being slashed.

      The problem with "hope" is that we have a leadership not willing to fight the war. Mulgrew and Randi can't walk in Karen Lewis' shoes and I doubt she would have even allowed due process to suffer like this.

      However, you can't claim to be a voice for change and then write a pro-contract post that will destroy due process rights. Pretty hypocritical.

    5. First anon at 2:23 PM - Nope, it's me.

      Second anon at 2:23 PM - Not sure what post you read, but it wasn't the one I wrote.

    6. Since DoEnuts was included as a reply to my comment, I answered it. The hypocrite is however you Reality for the reason I stated above.

    7. Read ICEs coverage on the contract, pay special attention to the wording under Health and tell me again why a NO vote falls under the category of blind fury. That's over 2 billion dollars of savings and where is it going to come from.....This is why contract language cannot be so broad. This is why other unions include health within their contract. I have no qualms if my co-pay is increased, but I expect my benefits to also stay strong or get stronger. As a rank and file member, I will not turn a blind eye on what eventually will effect myself and my family in the long run because I should be afraid of what the media says about me hurting poor deBlasio who stands up for hospital workers and then pulls a contract on us that destroys due process.

  2. Great post! I completely agree! I joined the "anti-Cuomo" rally out in Holbrook a couple of weeks ago and it was so encouraging to see so many parents and their children there. If a rally includes only teachers then the press is more likely to dismiss it as "disgruntled workers" but once the parents and children are included then it becomes a protest of "the people". That protest received so much coverage from the local tv station as well as local newspapers and news blogs. I'm not suggesting we should do what Eva did and use our children as political pawns, but when parents realize that State and Federal Education policies are harming their children and they CAN do something about it then it just takes letting them know HOW to get involved to bring them onboard.


    1. Thanks, Mary. Watching the change in how Newsday covers the Common Core/testing/APPR stories has been a wonder to me. It took getting parents on board to get them to stop covering it as "disgruntled workers." There is much value in learning this lesson and applying it to others.

    2. There will be another rally next Wednesday in Melville at the NY democratic convention. I'm going, and I'm bringing other NYC teachers with me. We should all go, too. We should get together with parent groups, and do them in the city, too. Like the happening today.

    3. Great idea. My workday doesn't end until 3:42, and I work in Manhattan, so getting to Melville isn't likely, but putting something together for Cuomo's Manhattan office certainly is.

  3. LOL. I work until 2:20 and live on Long Island. I'll go to Melville, then, because it's definitely more convenient for me. In the meantime, let's keep our eyes open for for a Cuomo event in the city. Maybe we can get something together.

  4. De Blasio was destroyed in the Success PR war -- where all of the facts were on his side -- because he hadn't gotten around to replacing his PR ace who he was scared off from hiring due to her relationship with Eliot Spitzer. The administration should have hit back hard, showing that Success assumed the obligation to find and pay for private space when it was granted those charters. Instead the response was weak and incoherent.

    I don't think you can expect a groundswell of support from NYC DOE parents (beyond the usual advocacy group suspects). The contract on the table doesn't do anything for class size and yanks away extended day, and we're getting testing and test-prep protection through state law. What's in it for parents?

    1. Great points on de Blasio, Tim. They had lost Smith to the Spitzer scandal. Even now, I hear they haven't really gotten a great PR shop together yet. And that matters.

      I think you're probably right about the second point too.

    2. I agree that taking away extended day for struggling students isn't in the best interest of those students and their parents. I said that to Mulgrew and he said "If it was working for your school than do an SBO to keep the schedule as it is." I've brought it up to my Principal and staff but there are just so many things to consider and I don't know if the staff wants to give up the collaboration and parent engagement time that all the other schools will have. I'm hoping that maybe we can get some funding for after-school on Wednesday through Friday that would enable us to do both without forcing anyone to give up anything. We'll see.


  5. You guys assume de Blasio really wanted to challenge Eva and charters instead of using it as a campaign issue to tap into the anti-Bloomberg sentiment. Was he inept or did he plan to back off from the beginning? His decision to give the charters everything but 3 schools is a sign. I just didn't figure that wasn't good enough - his real mistake. In essence he looked for what he thought would be just enough to satisfy the anti-deformers while basically giving charters what they wanted. I was writing back a year ago that Eva will never pay a dime of rent - because i didn't trust de Blasio to buck the charter lobby. And so he didn't. His lack of response which looked like a slam dunk was not due to ineptness but lack of will. Because in the end they are all ed deformers - with even Baraka making deform noises.