Conniptions

After Steve Conn was elected president of the Detroit Federation of Teachers we knew it was only a matter of time before the hilarity would ensue.

Conn is a militant’s militant. He was once suspended from the union for seven months for misconduct during a swearing-in ceremony.

Conn squeaked into office by 15 votes and he didn’t carry any of his slate with him, so the DFT executive board is filled with his opponents. He also isn’t making friends in the broader union movement.

Conn organized a rally today in Lansing to protest proposed reductions in health care benefits (Update: The rally draws 30 people). The Coalition of Detroit Public Schools Unions is working to negotiate a better deal and asked union members not to participate in the protest.

“They’re stupid, that’s all,” Conn said. “We’ve got to stop losing, which is all they stand for.”

But Conn has more to worry about than health insurance. A group of DFT members is gathering signatures for Conn’s recall. They need 1,000.

“It’s stupid what they’re trying to do,” said Conn, who knows what teachers need… him.

“Without me right now, without this fight, teachers are going to lose what they have left and that means pay, anything remaining in healthcare, any protections at all — and teachers don’t want that,” he said.

Conn’s a busy man, but he did have time to pen an 8-page manifesto to DFT members. In it, he refers to his opponents as “the forces of chaos” and a “state-enforced dictatorship to impose a New Jim Crow system.” He then compared the situation in Detroit to pre-Civil War America after the Dred Scott decision.

He accused other DFT officers by name of “outright sabotage” and the “work of a Benedict Arnold.” He called meetings of the union’s executive board “a circus of tantrum-throwing misfits and obstructionists.”

Considering his usual tactics, Conn then made an ironic call for civility.

“We are not required to agree on all things, but we are required to conduct ourselves such that disagreement can be resolved by democratic discussion and voting rather than by the imposition of the will of a small band of would-be tyrants. (More specifically in this case, has-been tyrants.),” he said.

I’m also reminded of historical analogy, but it isn’t Dred Scott. It’s 13 Vendémiaire. Those recall signature-gatherers should brace themselves for a whiff of grapeshot.

Share