When you're Randi Weingarten, part-time head of the UFT (and part-time head of the AFT) it takes a pretty big event to get your attention. But Michelle Rhee, the Chancellor of still-awful DC schools, has determined that the woes of the school system she administrates are largely due to job protections and regular raises for teachers. It's well known that what's important is children. What children need, of course (when they grow up), are more jobs from which they can be fired for no reason whatsoever.
So Ms. Weingarten has decided to meet with Ms. Rhee. And nothing is off the table except vouchers, which Ms. Weingarten has determined are bad. Things that are on the table (which Ms. Weingarten has apparently determined not to be bad) are loss of teacher tenure and merit pay. After all, who can determine better than Michelle Rhee whether or not teachers deserve to keep their jobs? She, like Ms. Weingarten, knows all about being a teacher, having taught for a year or two herself.
Ms. Weingarten is a new kind of union leader, and she is most definitely not some cigar-chomping union thug. For one thing, Ms. Weingarten thinks nothing of rolling up her sleeves and giving away twenty years of gains for less than cost of living. Now the cigar-chomper might say something like, "What are you, nuts, to offer such a crappy deal?" but not Ms. Weingarten. She gets her entire patronage mill out to campaign for it, to vote for it, and doesn't regret it for one solitary minute.
But the question really is this--what motivates AFT President Randi Weingarten to get involved with a local, and not even the one she still runs (part-time)?
The Washington Post seems to know:
...she criticized Rhee's consideration of measures that would release the District from its legal obligation to bargain with the Washington Teachers' Union. These include seeking revival of the city's ability to open nonunion charter schools, and legislation that would declare a post-Katrina-style "state of emergency" that would effectively allow Rhee and Mayor Adrian M. Fenty (D) to create a new, union-free school system.
Obviously, once Rhee and Fenty decide to go this route, that would be trouble for Ms. Weingarten. Ms. Weingarten would perhaps have to oppose it, and as she's lacked the gumption to oppose mayoral control, unilateral repeal of term limits, the school-based pay that condemns senior teachers to ATR status, or even Joel Klein for education secretary, how could she oppose this? People might get mad at her, or think she's an old-time cigar-chomper, or even a socialist.
And regardless of all that, there are dues to be collected. Don't you think for one minute, Michelle Rhee, that you're gonna mess with the collection of dues. You can have tenure, you can have merit pay, but there are conventions that need to be funded, and who's gonna pay for that once you deny our members of their much-treasured dues checkoff?
After all, just because we give up on tenure and merit pay in DC, it doesn't mean we have to do so anywhere else, right? Michelle Rhee doesn't exist simply because we gave up everything we possibly could in NYC, does she? Are these things related? Will there be consequences for our giving up everything en masse?
Nah. Of course not. You go girl!