Saturday, July 28, 2018

On Union Working With Conservatives

I was pretty curious when I saw this tweet, suggesting that unions and conservatives should band together, so I clicked and read the story.

Of course, this is not actually such a new concept. For years we've tried to work with our political opponents. For example, we paired with Bill Gates to do the MET study. In my school, it was pretty odd. We weren't really sure what they were trying to do, and the people running the study didn't seem to know either. What we ended up with, of course, was a junk science evaluation system dotting much of the country.

I also recall former UFT President Randi Weingarten getting pretty cozy with Michael Bloomberg, going to baseball games or something, and a photo somewhere of Joel Klein kissing her. If Joel Klein kissed me I'd go home and wash my entire body with Brillo pad. Agreements we made with Joel Klein, particularly the 2005 contract, have moved us backward. We live with the ATR and hundreds, more likely thousands, of our members suffer for no good reason.

Let's get to the actual article:

Teachers’ unions are supposed to protect teachers — a good and noble role. Unfortunately, decade after decade of additional “protections,” often written to protect the worst actors, created a sclerosis in many school districts.

It's a "good and noble role," but it's "often written to protect the worst actors." This is an attempt to appear reasonable, but also implies that the "worst actors," whoever they may be, are not worthy of protection. Unfortunately for folks who feel like doing whatever they like, everyone has to follow the rules. This applies to administrators as well. Note that the writer, having gotten in his dig against bad teachers, follows this with an example having nothing to do with them whatsoever.

Michelle Rhee realized that the central office couldn’t get same-day attendance data from the paper-based reporting system, she suggested that teachers use their computers, but the Washington Teachers’ Union fought her on it, arguing that teachers were protected from doing data-entry work.

Hey, if those were the rules, those were the rules. It would be on Rhee to renegotiate them rather than doing any damn thing she felt like. Because she couldn't be bothered with rules, at least one teacher is getting his job back nine years after she fired him, and Rhee's now selling fertilizer. To the writer's credit, he admits to the systemic fraud that fueled Rhee's education miracle.

Alas there are other inaccuracies here:

On some issues, such as school choice, conservatives and teachers’ unions will never see eye to eye.

The fact is a whole lot of the reformy nonsense from which we suffer was initiated by Democrats. Cory Booker can scream and cry about Betsy DeVos all he likes, but the fact is he supports virtually everything she does. And Obama's administration, according to none other than Diane Ravitch, gave Bush a third term in education.

I don't think it's a good idea for us to team up with our enemies. It's been done. After we invited Gates to the AFT convention, he thanked us by attacking our pensions. More recently, Randi Weingarten wrote an op-ed with what's his name, the guy who runs E4E. Predictably, the guy thanked her by attacking the Absent Teacher Reserve. But that was not, in fact, my main objection to the piece. This was:

The guy who wrote the article tweeted back, and I responded.

As you can see, the writer seems to have felt that sheer snark was somehow a substitute for argument. I'm here to tell you it isn't. The fact is that Janus was funded by people like the Koch Brothers and the Walmart family. If they aren't conservative, I don't know who is. We've known for a long time that "right-to-work" was anti-labor, and in fact Martin Luther King railed against it decades ago. As for the goals of these conservatives, one need look only to Wisconsin and various red states to see where they've driven union.

Sometimes we find common ground. But all too often we've been stabbed in the back for the offense of seeking it. We have to stand tall, we have to stand together, and we certainly can't be diverted by snarky nonsense posing as argument. I'll stand with people who support universal health care, a living wage, union, and affordable college. My first go-to, alas, won't be someone from a right-wing think tank. They may be good for propping up traitors like Janus and rewarding them with gigs, but I'm here to support my brother and sister unionists.

We can certainly do better than teaming up with those who work toward our destruction.
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