Add Boston to the Union Militancy Movement

Richard Stutman has been president of the Boston Teachers Union for 13 years, and he will continue be president, having run unopposed last month. His union, however, is changing beneath him.

An opposition caucus, called BTU Votes, ran a candidate for executive vice-president who lost by only 65 votes to the incumbent. Today’s Boston Herald has a story about election irregularities, but the real story is the unexpected strength of the opposition and its candidate, Jessica Tang.

Tang’s campaign web site indicates she is part of the growing teacher union militancy movement. She mentions she has “relationships with and access to union leadership from several other locals including the Massachusetts Teachers Association, Chicago Teachers Union, United Teachers of Los Angeles, and Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association.” All of these unions are places where militants were elected over establishment candidates.

She also supports the United Caucuses of Rank-and-File Educators (UCORE), which is a fledgling attempt to organize like-minded members across state lines. I can’t say if UCORE will be the coalition necessary for these social justice unionists to upend incumbents in even more large locals, or perhaps compete at the national level, but it’s interesting that the thoughts of those involved in the movement are running along those lines.

Don’t get too excited/worried. It will take ages before organized opposition can have a demonstrable effect on NEA, and its growth in AFT is offset by the stranglehold the establishment caucus has in New York City’s United Federation of Teachers. But at the very least we can expect union incumbents everywhere to start shoring up their left flanks and publicly adopt more progressive stances.