November 25, 2007

The lady doth protest, but for real?

After a summer of intense pressure on the union leadership, Randi Weingarten finally moved on the rubber room and ATR situations — too late for the most part, since careers were already severely damaged (or ended) and givebacks already contractualized.

Nevertheless, she seems to have gotten the message that the membership is fairly disgusted with her milquetoast response to the DOE’s continuously rotten treatment of its employees.

(Bravo, TAG and all the others who’ve been in her face on these issues for months now.)

Regardless of her motives for being somewhat dispassionate about the DOE's brutality for the past couple of years, Weingarten is now making a show of outrage by joining the Candlelight Vigil mounted by a disgusted teacher who was determined to “To Mourn the Death of Civil Rights and Due Process for New York City's 100,000 Dedicated Teachers,” even if he had to do it on his own. That’s how he announced it, and that’s what she couldn’t resist: the chance to look as if she really had our interests at heart. She quickly jumped on board and called everyone out to the Monday demonstration at Tweed “to protest the DOE’s creation of the Teacher Performance Unit and to call for respect for city teachers.”

Respect. It reminds me of the armbands campaign some years back calling for respect, and the brainstorming session on the same topic. (Was there more than one session? I didn't get invited back after the one I went to. Maybe they dropped it.) In case you ever thought so, you can't get respect just by demanding it.

We have called Weingarten a dissembler before, and we shouldn’t be fooled by her public indignation now. Most veteran teachers have seen her do this dance many times over, the making nice to the powers that be, and then the playing at being tough. She even said as much at the ATR meeting herself, when she talked about the periods she’s friendly with Klein alternating with the times they piss each other off.

If you want members to believe you're for real, you can’t do games. Your job is not to be nice or considerate, or collaborate with the bosses. Your job is to advance the interests of your members, and failing that, prevent a deluge of contractual givebacks and protect them legally and through protest from egregious administrative behavior. She's actually not done much of any of this.

If Weingarten were playing it straight with us, she’d have been standing up publicly to this chancellor all along and not waiting for us to call, nag, email, blog, or prod her, much less expose, parse, and debunk her public explanations and excuses every time he fires off another round of abuse. After all, this is the man who has pushed children, parents and staff off the board in the devilish game of monopoly he’s been playing with his corporate buddies at the expense of public education. If Weingarten were playing it straight with us, you'd feel her support in your bones.

Veteran members — not, of course, the Unity people, who have something tangible to lose if they don’t swim with the pack — have come to see Weingarten’s thrusts and feints for what they are: maneuvers to enhance her personal political position. It’s the newer members, and the passive ones, who have to listen up this time and not get sucked into thinking she is working for them.

Weingarten works for herself. She’s stayed in power so long because she’s a political animal who’s deft at what she does.

And what she does, as Norm Scott says in “UFT: Masters of Deflection,” is:
deflect people from taking action on their own or ... in concert with others... The goal is to stop anything from getting organized, and if the threat is serious enough, they may actually do something (or give the impression they are doing something).
Weingarten cancelled a long-planned rally in May that had the support of parents and community groups (see Kolodner’s account in The Chief). Why should we believe she’s being honest with us now at the Monday vigil when she sacked her own demonstration last spring and nixed an attempt by chapter leaders soon after to reinstate it? According to Kolodner, those people had been planning a protest against the reorganization even before the May 9th demonstration was announced. Where was Weingarten and the full force of the union presence then?

This the the key. Weingarten will do what is in Weingarten’s interest. She’ll make sudden announcements, move venue, call emergency meetings to push through her agenda, twist Roberts Rules, plant supporters to make her case, demean adversaries, or talk deep into the delegate assemblies to reduce the question period. She’s learned how to do all that, and she does it well.

What she hasn’t done is organize this union into a force to be reckoned with. And she hasn't figured out a way to tune into our anger and despair and use all of it to put this misanthropic BloomKlein machine back on the right course.


  1. Woodlass,

    An excellent commentary. TAG will make sure its members are alerted to read it. Why not try to get it published. Do send a copy to Hilary. Let her know what she is in for if she even thinks of rewarding Randi IF she, Hilary, makes it to the White House- not something many UFTers are looking forward to.


  2. right on TAG you read my mind I was just about to say the same thing! the e-activist aft email I got today wants our "Hillary stories" like we are a bunch of giggling school girls who got to meet the big important lady! gimme a break!! are we all just a bunch of over-aged children in the profession? and why do we allow ourselves to be treated as such?? sheeps to slaughter...wake the hell up already!!!!