Archives for category: Unions

Peter Greene, high school teacher in Pennsylvania, read Anthony Cody’s article about teachers taking action, and he remembered why he had been reluctant when he should have spoken out. Then he realized that the time had come to speak up and not allow his profession to be diminished by uninformed critics.

In this post, he gives practical advice about how teachers must overcome their reluctance and become warriors on behalf of their students and their profession.

He boils it down to four principles:

Trust your judgment.




To fill in the details, read his post.

Anthony Cody here describes teachers as “reluctant warriors,” as men and women who chose a profession because they wanted to teach, not to engage in political battles over their basic rights as professionals.


The profession is under attack, as everyone now knows. Pensions are under attack. The right to due process is under attack. The policymakers want inexperienced, inexpensive teachers who won’t talk back, who won’t collect a pension, who will turn over rapidly:


In years past we formed unions and professional organizations to get fair pay, so women would get the same pay as men. We got due process so we could not be fired at an administrator’s whim. We got pensions so we could retire after many years of service.

But career teachers are not convenient or necessary any more. We cost too much. We expect our hard-won expertise to be recognized with respect and autonomy. We talk back at staff meetings, and object when we are told we must follow mindless scripts, and prepare for tests that have little value to our students.

No need for teachers to think for themselves, to design unique challenges to engage their students. The educational devices will be the new source of innovation. The tests will measure which devices work best, and the market will make sure they improve every year. Teachers are guides on the side, making sure the children and devices are plugged in properly to their sockets.


First, the privatizers came for the schools of the poor, because their parents and communities were powerless and were easy marks for privatization. Then they came for the union and the teachers:


Schools of the poor were the first targets. It was easy to stigmatize schools attended by African Americans and Latinos, by English learners and the children of the disempowered. Use test scores to label them failures, dropout factories, close them down, turn them over to privatizers. But this was just the beginning. And now, as Arne Duncan made clear with his dismissal of “white suburban moms,” they want all the schools, and are prepared to use poor performance on the Common Core tests to fuel the “schools are failing” narrative.


Teacher unions are under ruthless attack by billionaires, who conveniently own the media, and provide the very “facts” to guide public discourse. Due process is maligned and destroyed under the guise of “increasing professionalism.” Democratic control of local schools is undermined by mayoral control and the expansion of privately managed charter schools.


Congress and state legislatures have been purchased wholesale through bribes legalized by the Supreme Court, which has given superhuman power to corporate “citizens.”


Teachers, by our nature cooperators respectful of authority, are slow to react. Can the destruction of public education truly be anyone’s goal? The people responsible for this erosion rarely state their intentions. With smiles and praise for teachers, they remove our autonomy and make our jobs depend on test scores. With calls for choice and civil rights, they re-segregate our schools, and institute zero-tolerance discipline policies in their no-excuses charter schools. They push for larger classes in public schools but send their own children to schools with no more than 16 students in a room. Corporate philanthropies anoint teacher “leaders” who are willing to echo reform themes – sometimes even endorsed by our national teacher unions.


Now, he says, as the truth gets out about the privatization movement and its bipartisan support, teachers are starting to fight back. They are joining the BATs, they are joining the Network for Public Education, they are speaking out, they are (as in Seattle) refusing to give the tests, they are organizing (as in New York City) to protest the low quality of the tests.


Join in the fight against high-stakes testing, which is a central element in the privatization movement. They use the data to target teachers, principals, and public schools. They use the data to destroy public education. Don’t cooperate. Join the reluctant warriors. One person alone will be hammered. Do it with your colleagues, stand together, and be strong.






The Chicago Teachers Union is getting politically active on behalf of public education and teachers. It supported candidates who oppose school closings and privatization via charters. Note the lessons: The last one is: “This ain’t Wisconsin.”



IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                   CONTACT:   Stephanie Gadlin

March 19, 2014                                                                                                                            312-329-6250




Incumbents seeking to erode retirement security in Chicago had better beware


CHICAGO – Throughout this primary season, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) has been a strong and vocal advocate for voters on the South and West Sides of Chicago—many of whom have been most impacted by the foolishness of education deformers and pension thieves. It is time to stand up to the predatory corporate and political interests that seek to threaten the economic security of thousands of workers. Incumbents seeking to steal our retirement security, beware.

“The Chicago Teachers Union expressed people power this electoral cycle,” said CTU President Karen Lewis.  “We were most successful in creating a platform of educational justice and retirement security that was expressed by our endorsed candidates.  Representative-elect Will Guzzardi amplified our calls for an elected, representative school board, a moratorium on school closings and an end to charter proliferation.

“With our continued support and his ability to turn the issues we’ve long championed into a successful political campaign, he was able to take down the Berrios machine and strike a blow to the top-down political tradition of the Northwest Side,” she said.

While the 26th District race remains contested, it is clear that voters on the South Side have soundly rejected State Rep. Christian “Crown” Mitchell’s anti-working families’ platform. This contest, more than any other this Primary season, exposes the racial and economic fault lines for 2015.

School closings, the campaign for an elected, representative school board and retirement security are important issues that matter well beyond downtown Chicago. It is also clear that education deformers, such as Democrats for Education Reform, Stand For Children, Lester Crown and the We Mean Business PAC will continue to spend millions of dollars to influence Illinois public policy and purchase the loyalty of politicians too compromised to stand up for their constituents.

The only way an incumbent like Mitchell was able to—possibly—squeak by a relatively unknown community leader like Jay Travis was by pandering to predominantly white wards through scare tactics and misinformation about imaginary tax increases. Travis, on the other hand, was able to secure the support of working families that want well-resourced neighborhood schools, retirement security and the right to self-determination thru an elected representative school board. It is also telling that despite having virtually no support beyond parents, students and working class people such as teachers, social workers, secretaries, lunchroom workers, janitors, firefighters, police officers and hospital workers, Travis showed impressive gains against a well-financed incumbent backed by the mayor, the Illinois Speaker of the House, the Cook County Board President, two U.S. congressmen, various aldermen, preachers and other paid political operatives.

Tuesday was only Round One in the 26th District. The die has been cast and the electorate has been energized. The CTU will continue to be dogmatic, clear and protective of publicly funded public education and retirement security. Because of our collective effort, Rep. Christian “Crown” Mitchell has been exposed as a puppet of the oligarchy who gave him nearly a half-million dollars in 2012 and a million dollars in 2014 to secure his pension vote. He continues to accept donations from a group that advocates for the shuttering of neighborhood schools and uses those funds to benefit charter operations and the businesses they run.


  • ·         LESSON ONE: The CTU also provided organizers and financial resources that helped secure the Will Guzzardi victory over Toni Berrios in the 39th Legislative District. The CTU’s campaigns echoed strongly in Guzzardi’s winning education platform of saving neighborhood schools and stopping pension theft. It has been more than a decade since a union-supported candidate unseated an incumbent in a primary.


  • ·         LESSON TWO: While pollsters and key influencers were predicting a Christian ‘Crown’ Mitchell 10-point–to 12-point blowout in the 26th Legislative District, CTU’s candidate Jay Travis trounced the incumbent in in the 4th Ward (where his political sponsors have the most influence) and she is within just over 400 votes of victory—this despite widespread incidents of intimidation and interference with the democratic process.


  • ·         LESSON THREE: The CTU sent a clear message: We will not sit by idly while threats are made to steal the retirement security of our members. The Union has turned nearly 30,000 members into a vast political army that is prepared to educate the public, work precincts, donate money and go to the polls on Election Day.


  • ·         LESSON FOUR: There is nothing dead about organized labor. With pundits and pollsters projecting a magnificent landslide for Republican charter booster Bruce Rauner, Kirk Dillard—backed by labor—came within two points of defeating him for the nomination. His near-loss shows that Rauner is an out-of-touch, right-wing billionaire who would put the wealthy, corporations and his special interest buddies ahead of the priorities of Illinois families—job creation and a stronger middle class.


  • ·         LESSON FIVE: The CTU extended its influence to Champaign, Illinois, where Carol Ammons has claimed victory in the 103rd Legislative District. Ammons will make equitable access to public education and pension protection pillars of her race in the fall against Republican Kristin Williamson of Urbana. She is also a strong supporter of Fair Tax and drug policy reform.


  • ·         LESSON SIX: Parents, teachers and voters in the 26th Ward soundly rejected a massive effort by the school district to convert Ames Middle School into an unnecessary military academy. This victory happened despite tactics used by Ald. Roberto Maldonado, which included mailings, persistent robo-calls, and having students dressed as Marines canvass door to door.


  • ·         LESSON SEVEN: The CTU gained valuable field experience, involved hundreds of members in field operations, increased the number of members donating political contributions, and intends to use these increased capacities in future contests. Through the Chicagoans for Economic Security PAC, working families will organize, pool their resources and actively participate in campaigns to defeat the status quo.


  • ·         LESSON EIGHT: This ain’t Wisconsin.



The Chicago Teachers Union represents 30,000 teachers and educational support personnel working in the Chicago Public Schools, and by extension, the more than 400,000 students and families they serve. The CTU is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the Illinois Federation of Teachers and is the third largest teachers local in the United States and the largest local union in Illinois. For more information please visit CTU’s website at



Jeff Bryant of the Education Opportunity Network writes in Salon that voters are increasingly disenchanted with the bipartisan Bush-Obama education policies of high-stakes testing, Common Core, and privatization.

He points out that the attacks on public education are not playing well at all in the political arena. The overwhelming majority of parents are very happy with their local public schools and respect their teachers. The public is beginning to see through the lies they have been told about their schools. So much of the rhetoric of the “reformers” sounds appealing and benign, if not downright inspirational, but it ends up as nonstop testing, the closing of local public schools, merit pay, union-busting, the enrichment of multinational corporations, and standardization.

Bryant predicts that Democrats will suffer at the polls for their slavish espousal of hard-right GOP doctrine.

He writes:

“The only overriding constants? People generally like their local schools, trust their children’s teachers and think public school and teachers should get more money. Wonder when a politician will back that!

“Many observers, including journalists at The Wall Street Journal, have accurately surmised that the American public is currently deeply divided on education policy. But that analysis barely scratches the surface.

“Go much deeper and you find that the “new liberal consensus” that Adam Serwer wrote about in Mother Jones, which propelled Obama into a second term, believes in funding the nation’s public schools but has little to no allegiance to Obama’s education reform policies.

“Outside of the elite circles of the Beltway and the very rich, who continue to be the main proponents of these education policies, it is getting harder and harder to discern who exactly is the constituency being served by the reform agenda.

“Most Americans do not see any evidence that punitive measures aimed at their local schools are in any way beneficial to their children and grandchildren. In fact, there’s some reasonable doubt whether the president himself understands it.

So is Arne Duncan making education policy on his own? Or is the policy agenda of the Obama administration indistinguishable from that of rightwing Republicans like Bobby Jindal, Rick Scott, Scott Walker, John Kasich, Mike Pence, and Tom Corbett?

This is a wide-ranging interview with Salon that started as a discussion of the Network for Public Education, then went on to discuss budget cuts, high-stakes testing, Common Core, Race to the Top, privatization, and much more.

This exclusive news appeared this morning on’s education site. When Randi spoke at the Network for Public Education conference in Austin, she told the audience for the Common Core panel that she would ask the AFT executive board for permission to do exactly what is described here. She understands that many members of the AFT do not trust the Gates Foundation, do not like Bill Gates’ public statements such as encouraging larger class sizes, or his unwavering commitment to measuring teacher quality by student test scores, despite the lack of evidence for its efficacy. I welcome this change and thank Randi and the AFT for severing ties with the Gates Foundation. Gates and Pearson have bought most of American education. Those who represent teachers should be free of their influence.

By Caitlin Emma

With help from Stephanie Simon

EXCLUSIVE: AFT SHUNS GATES FUNDING: The American Federation of Teachers ended a five-year relationship with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation after rank-and-file union members expressed deep distrust of the foundation’s approach to education reform. AFT President Randi Weingarten told Morning Education the union will no longer accept Gates money for its Innovation Fund, which was founded in 2009 and has received up to $1 million a year in Gates grants ever since. The Innovation Fund has sponsored AFT efforts to help teachers implement the Common Core standards – a Gates priority – among other initiatives.

- Weingarten said she didn’t believe Gates funding influenced the Innovation Fund’s direction, but still had to sever the relationship. “I got convinced by the level of distrust I was seeing – not simply on Twitter, but in listening to members and local leaders – that it was important to find a way to replace Gates funding,” she said. Weingarten plans to ask members to vote this summer on a dues hike of 5 cents per month, which she said would raise $500,000 a year for the Innovation Fund.

- The Innovation Fund isn’t the only AFT initiative funded by the Gates Foundation. Since 2010, the union has received more than $10 million. The AFT’s executive council hasn’t formally voted to reject Gates funding for other projects, but Weingarten said she would be very cautious about taking such grants. “I don’t want to say ‘never never ever ever,’” she said, but “this is a matter of making common bond with our members and really listening to the level of distrust they have in the philanthropies and the people on high who are not listening to them.”

- Vicki Phillips, who runs the Gates Foundation’s education division, said her team is “disappointed by Randi’s decision.” She called the AFT “an important thought partner” for the foundation. “We continue to applaud the work of the Innovation Fund grantees to engage teachers in improving teaching and learning in their local communities,” Phillips said.

Peter Greene reports on a debate where Michelle Rhee and Dennis Van Roekel, among others, team up to defend the Common Core standards. They are, he notes, the sharpest minds of our generation. Oh dear.

The best criticism emanates from some of the CC defenders, as when Charles Barone of “Democrats for Education Reform” (the hedge fund managers’ advocacy group for charters and high stakes testing of Other People’s Children) defended the Common Core and called them the “Vietnam of educational issues.” Apt phrasing for a program that has become so toxic that it’s future is in doubt.

NEA, the larger of the nation’s two teacher unions, never ceases to surprise.

In December 2011, Dennis Van Roekel co-authored an article in USA Today with Wendy Kopp of Teach for America, expressing their agreement on how to improve the preparation of teachers. Needless to say, the article provoked outrage among some NEA members, especially those who rightly see TFA as a placement agency for inexperienced, ill-trained youngsters who provide staff for a growing number on non-union schools.

Now NEA has announced a new partnership with the Gates-funded Teach Plus, which advocates for the use of student test scores to evaluate teachers. Its model is Colorado’s SB 191, one of the nation’s harshest laws, where student test scores count for 50% of a teacher’s evaluation. Bear in mind that evaluating teachers by the scores of their students has been shown by researchers to be inaccurate and to punish teachers whose classes include the neediest students. See here and here, for example.

Mercedes Schneider here explains why Teach Plus is a strange bedfellow for NEA.

She assumes that the teachers’ union wanted “a seat at the table” by aligning with an organization that is deeply embedded in the corporate reform movement. She warns that the union and experienced teachers will be “at the table,” but they will not have a seat. They will be on the serving platter.

In September 2012, the Chicago Teachets Union went out on strike to protest the conditions of teaching And learning in the schools. Surprisingly, the strike was supported by parents, who understood that the teachers were fighting for their children. More than 90% of CTU’s members supported the strike, outwitting the pernicious efforts by Jonah Edelman and Stand for Children to make a strike impossible by persuading the legislature to raise the threshold to 75% of members.

In this report, CTU explains its paradigm of unionism as “social organizing,” and contrasts it to an older, less valuable approach which it calls “service-model unionism:”

Here is an excerpt:

“The social-organizing model of unionism adopted by the CTU in the run up to the strike of 2012 played a crucial role in the success of the labor action.

“Broadly speaking there are two different types or poles of unionism operating in the US labor movement at this time – service unions and social-organizing unions. Service unionism, the most common model of unionism in the contemporary US labor movement, is characterized by the union providing a bundle of services to its membership (such as contract language, grievance proceedings, pay raises, and benefits) in a manner akin to how a business provides services to its customers. The leadership and staff of service model unions are the active agent and the rank and file membership are most often passive spectators in the activities of the union. Service model unions take a reactive stance towards management as union officers solve problems for members in response to complaints, concerns or issues that arise. The rhythm of union activity orbits around grievances, arbitrations, and contract deadlines. The key players in the union are the leadership, paid staff, lawyers and lobbyists. Decision- making is top-down and issues of importance are circumscribed by contract lan- guage. The de facto slogan of service model unionism is “If it’s not in the contract, it’s not our concern.”

“In contrast to service model unionism, social-organizing unionism sees unions as a social movement where the bonds of solidarity within the rank and file provide the foundation from which concerted collective action emanates. In the social-organizing model of unionism the leadership, staff and bureaucracy still exist, but their role is to organize, energize and activate the rank and file for collective action. Social- organizing model unions seek to set their own agenda in dealing with management. Social-organizing unions see organizing as a method to run contract campaigns and contract campaigns as a method to organize the rank and file; they are two sides of the same coin. Grievances, arbitrations and contracts are still key moments in the rhythm of the union, but the unity of the membership, and solidarity actions (often pre-grievance) take their place alongside the more officious features of unionism. In social-organizing unions, membership is active and decision-making is inclusive and consciously strives to expand democratic voice. Crucially, social-organizing unions see the contract, the membership and the union as embedded in a context that in- cludes the wider economy, the political system and culture. Therefore they actively engage the political process in order to fight for the conditions of their membership.”

Deborah Meier, one of the great education thinkers of our time, says we were duped.

The corporate reformers stole the good words like “reform” and “choice,” to cover their intentions. They borrowed language from the civil rights movement but not its noble goals.

What do they want?

Bust the unions.

Make money.

Their favorite vehicle: charter schools.

She writes:

“However, the idea of Charter Schools opened the eyes and ears of folks with quite different intentions. They saw that there was money to be made right and left and center. Buildings were “sold off” for nothing or nearly nothing. Public funds were used to start schools whose principals and leaders were paid a half million and more for being the principal” or “superintendent.” Publishing companies and private tech companies saw $$$$$ everywhere. By the time we wake up to what is happening we will no longer have a public education system in reality. Some charters will be legit—truly serving public purposes with public money and boards made up of educators, community members, etc. But most will be in the hands of folks with no other connection to the schools they “serve” than they have to anything else stockholders have—how much money can be made off of this! Meanwhile… that their revolutionary ideas will have demonstrated no significant improvement in the situation facing America’s poor children in terms of test scores is just fine without them.

“They did this with language resonating with the valiant words of “borrowed” from the civil rights movement. Except they seemed to have left out terms like “equal funding” or “integration.” They did it despite the cost to teachers of color, to public unions which Martin Luther King Jr. died defending. And on and on. They did this by adopting noble words (mea culpa) like choice and autonomy and self-governance and small scale and on and on. They did this by playing with data to confuse our judgment.

“Shame on us for being duped.”


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