Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Teachers Unions Political Strategy In Tatters - Isn't It Time For A New One?

From Josefa Velasquez and Jessica Bakeman at Capital NY:

New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany, a PAC formed by the reform group StudentsFirstNY, spent $4.2 million aiding Republican candidates.

Of the seven competitive races in which New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany invested, six yielded Republican victories

In January, Republicans will have control of the 63-seat upper chamber with 32 seats. The party now controls the chamber with the help of the Independent Democratic Conference, a group of five breakaway Democrats led by Senator Jeff Klein.

StudentsFirstNY declared victory over teachers unions in a memo to supporters on Wednesday.
“Six out of the seven candidates supported by New Yorkers for a Balanced Albany (NYBA) won, giving Republicans a clear majority in the New York State Senate,” said the memo, written by the group’s executive director, Jenny Sedlis, among others. “The last Senate’s leadership, along with the Governor, consistently stood up for what’s right for public school students, which is why [New York State United Teachers] and their allies put a target on their backs. For years, NYSUT has been the only game in town, but we stood up to them and won.
“The teachers union should not have a monopoly on state education policy,” Sedlis' memo said. “That position has been a direct result of their electoral hegemony. No longer.”

Having been a critic of the AFT/UFT/NYSUT political strategy for a while now, I'm going to yet come around with another "Told You So!"

Last week AFT President Randi Weingarten kept pushing the idea that it doesn't matter what Cuomo wants to do to public schools or teachers if the Democrats control both houses in the legislature.

She was saying this even as she was defending Cuomo's anti-public school comments as "campaign rhetoric."

Now with the election over and the union strategy of re-taking the State Senate for Dems in tatters, I ask the all-knowing Randi Weingarten "Now what?"

Deformers wants the charter cap increased or lifted.

They want NYC mayoral control changed to benefit charter schools.

They want the APPR to be changed to make it more punitive.

And they now have a governor and a Republican State Senate (joined probably by the breakaway Independent Democratic Conference) to do it for them.

The truth is, even had the union-backed Dems taking back the Senate, they STILL might have given the ed reformers what they want.

The AFT/UFT/NYSUT political strategy is a mess and the only thing it seems to be successful at is giving Weingarten and her fellow union leaders the opportunity to look like they're doing something against ed deform while not really doing anything against ed deform at all.

The cynic in me wonders if that isn't truly the point of the strategy.

Let's be honest here - Randi Weingarten cares NOTHING for teachers, schools or the teaching profession.

She cares only for her own career trajectory, power and compensation.

The same can be said for the leaders at the UFT and the NYSUT.

Having watched these so-called union leaders over the last fourteen years, I have seen them lose battle after battle to the deformers, all the while claiming that critics of their strategy are naive waifs who don't understand Big Time Politics.

I suppose since the AFT and UFT didn't take any aim at Cuomo this campaign season, they still have a stool at his table - but so far the access that stool brings has gotten us an APPR teacher evaluation system that unfairly rates teachers, a tax cap that starves schools, a lifting of the charter cap and a whole lot of nasty rhetoric out of the governor about teachers and schools.

With Cuomo promising to break the public school "monopoly" next term and put "real sanctions" in his teacher evaluation system, things stand to get a lot worse before they get any better.

And you can bet the unions' strategy in combating this won't change any - we'll continue to hear about the importance of access (which is why we never fight ed deformers like Obama or Cuomo), we'll continue to hear about the importance of retaking the legislature (even though Dems in the legislature are often as anti-teacher or anti-public school as Republicans), we'll continue to hear about the need to collaborate with the ed deformers so that we look like nice people to the general public.

All the while the ed deformers continue to rack up victory after victory against public schools and the teaching profession in both the political arena and the courts.

Maybe, just maybe, after years of losing every battle to the deformers, it's time for another political strategy, one that includes not collaborating with politicians out to destroy the public school system, putting forth our own political candidates who we know will be pro-schools and pro-teachers, retaliating against politicians who sell us out by primarying them, and putting forth a vision of public schools that does not use the ed deform narrative of "failing schools" and "bad teachers" as its frame.

If we had union leaders who truly cared about their members, we might get some semblance of that strategy.

Alas, we do not have those kinds of leaders.

Instead we have collaborators who do their best at fighting windmills and other symbols while shrinking from every real and meaningful fight with deform politicians.

Even worse, we have union leaders who back these deform politicians just because they have a (D) after their names and tell us this is the best we can do in the political environment we now have.

God forbid our union leaders should try and change that political environment with a new political strategy.


  1. Randi has been a collaborator for over a decade. But teachers across the country don't realize this because she wasn't the president of their local. However, if you look at what she has done to teachers on a national level via the contracts with DC, Colorado, Newark and of course New York, you might understand it. She decided to "give in" to the political climate rather than fight it thinking it would make her a hero. She joined the Reformers on even sat on their board of directors. During this same time, she reorganized the way the UFT did business making it near impossible for other factions to win seats at the table. She changed the way the DA operates and worst of all, she no longer allowed chapters to vote for their DR. Instead she wanted complete control. Basically Unity turned into the Mafia and made people sign blood oaths. So the real culprits of those teachers who turned into collaborators themselves by backing this totalitarian leader.

  2. Amen. I think I like the idea of union leadership made up of full time teachers not lounge lizards screwing around on their ipads all day and flitting to different corners of the state for meetings where the refuse to answer questions. Doesn't PJSTA President Beth Dimino still teach? I think we need that connection and we need leadership's neck on the same block as the rest of us. Messner, Magoo, Palotta, Weingarten et al are useless. They work to fatten their own wallets and feather their own nests. They have no skin in our game. And that's a huge problem that leads to a lot of cowardly collaboration in place of bare knuckled unionism. No more executives, managers, coasters and loafers. The job is too damned important to be filled with idlers and dead weight.

  3. Good luck voting them out of office. They have rigged the game so it is virtually impossible to vote them out.

  4. How do we get this done? Hold our vote/cope money? We need an uproar!!!

  5. It really should not be a surprise our strategy is in tatters, it is not our (rank and file) strategy. This was the brain child of Andy Palotta, Randi and Michael Mulgrew. I do not even include Karen Magee in this, her role was more of the useful idiot. Can anybody point to a clear strategic success that Mulgrew, Weingarten or Palotta have delivered. They cannot even articulate a tweet about their strategy without the rank and file going berserk, because they have stopped representing us a long time ago. This reminds me of Einstein's definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

    We are going to have to create networks and caucuses in the state and national affiliates to reclaim our agenda, inform and engage the rank and file or it is just a matter of time when unions and the profession I love are just memories.

  6. Why would a Vichy-like leadership as much lined up with the deformers change a strategy that's working for the deformers? Especially since they are guaranteed their slice of the pie for cooperating? There won't be a rank and file strategy until the rank and file activates itself and starts creating some noise. A few voices in the wilderness don't reach the falling trees.