August fed rep council opened with Ellen’s attempts to overplay relatively small victories, while also claiming full credit for said wins. Ellen presented a letter to be shared with members at the beginning of the year which starts by emphasizing the union’s position on the budget; “No more cuts. Not. One. Cent.” This is a great position! In fact, it was a position AlbuCORE presented to union leadership, fed reps, and the Board of Education almost 2 months prior to Ellen’s appropriation of the rhetoric. We take pride in this – AlbuCORE clearly adopted a position and strategy that resonated with the rank and file so much, that it simply couldn’t be ignored! This is how a union should run – from the members to the top.
Ellen claims that determination in negotiations prevented furlough days, increased class sizes, and the heavy high school schedule. Lamentably, contract negotiations are open to only the executive council and leave the rank and file in the dark. This makes it quite convenient for Ellen to tout her negotiating prowess because the membership has no access to the truth of the negotiating table! Additionally, Ellen’s letter omits completely the participation of the rank and file who wrote letters, attended board meetings, sent clever letters to the editor, and wielded collective power in the form of a walkout to defend public education. We applaud the courage of everyday teachers and students!
Also problematic was Ellen’s staggering lack of solidarity with the working class and our fellow teachers. She said that although teachers did not face furlough days, other APS staff, who make less than teachers, took pay cuts. While this is a good development for teachers, to cheer the preservation of our pay at the expense of others in the working class is disgraceful. In a similar vein, Ellen qualified our modest contract gains by stating; “I am proud to say that, unlike many of our union brothers and sisters across the country, there were no losses.” To proudly use the losses and hardships faced by teachers to justify a weak contract negotiation is reprehensible. Unionism is about the struggle of the working class against the ruling class – it is quite horrifying that union leadership so grandly fails to grasp the collective nature of our struggle.
Ellen’s letter ends by quoting Randi Weingarten discussing the importance of our schools, democracy, protecting the vulnerable, etc. etc. etc. Based on Randi Weingarten’s recent actions, this is mere lip service. Randi Weingarten spends her time taking the absurdly incompetent Betsy DeVos on school tours while condemning the legitimate protests of teachers and students who take a stand against DeVos’ agenda for privatization. It is of the utmost importance that we remember that regardless of the pretty rhetoric they might spin, none of these bureaucrats are friends to the rank and file.
As we enter a new school year, it is crucial that we stay engaged in the struggle. It is beyond clear that change will not come from bureaucrats and business unionists – it must come from the activity of the rank and file. There are no champions to fight for us, we must be the advocates for public education, social justice, and working class solidarity. AlbuCORE will continue to mobilize and engage the rank and file with direct and collective action to improve our schools and communities. Join us – unite and resist!