The American Federation of Teachers executive council voted to endorse Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for President of the United States. This, in the words of one union activist, “was about as surprising as a 7-Eleven store having a slurpee machine.”
Despite its inevitability and the likelihood that it reflects the preference of most of AFT’s members, the announcement was greeted with displeasure from many in the rank-and-file.
The union soon found itself on the defensive, releasing details of its internal polling and leaking the information that the 40-or-so members of the executive council voted 3-1 in favor of Hillary. Who voted how is not something AFT thinks its members are entitled to know.
These dissenting AFT members are now faced with their union using their money and resources to support a political position they don’t like, chosen in a way they believe to be undemocratic. That sounds vaguely familiar.
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.
There’s nothing like an invigorating day of air travel to take your mind off your fatigue. And the perfect end to four days of sitting in a freezing hall with 7,000 other people is to be crammed into a freezing metal tube for four hours with 200 other people.
I’m back at the EIA Command Center and will post lightly for the next week or so, as I wade through the e-mails and voice messages.
I’ll respond to each of your requests for information, but please be patient while I’m getting
After flirting with the issue on previous measures, the National Education Association Representative Assembly approved a new business item that supports the movement to opt out of standardized tests.
NBI 115 read:
The NEA will work within existing infrastructure to engage and leverage our current partnerships with parents and families to support a national opt out/test refusal movement.
The item passed by a large margin without debate.
The assembly came to a close at 8:26 pm after the delegates had committed $1.4 million of union’s $3 million contingency fund to enact new business items.
Additionally, the union announced it raised an average of $206.48 per delegate for the NEA political action committee fund, bringing its total for the year to $3.4 million. That’s $400,000 short of last year’s total at this time, but this is an off year for elections.
Finally, supporters of Constitutional Amendment 1, the measure that would have granted a full allotment of NEA delegates to merged state affiliates, refiled the amendment for consideration at next year’s RA.
That’s all from Orlando. Thanks for your attention during a grueling four days and your indulgence while I make my way back to the West Coast to resume normal operations.
The good news is we won’t be here until the wee hours of tomorrow morning. The bad news (?) is that the agenda had to be truncated and debate accelerated. Why? Because the labor rules of the bus company NEA uses to ferry delegates back and forth to their hotels won’t allow drivers to be on duty for more than 15 hours.
As a result the delegates are running through new business items with little or no debate, completing action on 23 items in 90 minutes. Of note:
* Delegates approved NBI 32, directing NEA to conduct a campaign to end the use of Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) tests.
* NBI 36, calling for the repeal of California’s charter school law, was withdrawn.
* NBI 46, which would have had NEA change its self-description from “nation’s largest professional employee organization” to “nation’s largest professional employee association and union” was narrowly defeated.
* NBI 54 originally ordered NEA to “cease promotion of Common Core State Standards (CCSS)” but was amended to instead say “monitor” CCSS. The new language was approved.
I want to spend a little space here on NBI 41, which read:
“NEA will, through closed social media, broadcast the NEA RA for members to watch in the comfort of their homes, offices, or on their electronic devices.”
This was overwhelmingly defeated for a number of reasons, including its $30,000 cost. I was struck, however, by the remarks of a delegate speaking for the Louisiana delegation.
She argued that the RA should not be broadcast to members – even through a password-protected site – because “debate sometimes gets ugly” and “We want to control the flow of information.” She wanted to delegates to have a “safe space” to speak “without fear of reprisal.”
You can’t go 10 minutes here without someone reminding you that the RA is “The World’s Largest Democratic Deliberative Assembly” and that the delegates are committing themselves to “do the work of the members.”
As the only remaining press outlet in the hall, I can say the NEA RA has virtually achieved the goal of controlling the flow of information. It’s fascinating to see that – in the case of at least one state delegation – democracy in action requires keeping members in the dark until the words of their ostensible representatives can be edited and sanitized for their protection.
The start of the RA:
The end of the RA: