Since the beginning of the Trump Administration, AFT national president Randi Weingarten has failed to wholly denounce and condemn the Trump Administration and their abhorrent agenda of white supremacy, starvation of public services, privatization of education, and the general enrichment of the ruling class at the expense of the American people. In light of Weingarten’s defense of Betsy DeVos and her mysterious meeting with Trump’s then Chief Strategist, Steve Bannon earlier this year, any self respecting teacher should be wondering whether she is friend or foe.

Weingarten’s questionable actions back in February when she condemned the peaceful protest of teachers and students at Jefferson Middle School Academy in Washington D.C. Protesters blocked DeVos from entering the school; an incredible action worthy of praise and admiration. Why shouldn’t they block her when she would love nothing more than to shut the school down and reopen it as a private charter? DeVos’ agenda of “school choice,” which is a euphemism for the commodification and privatization of public education, aims to marginalize working class families – the very families who stood their ground against her. Good for them.

But, Weingarten’s tender sensibilities were offended. She tweeted, “Just heard a protester blocked & almost knocked Secy @BetsyDeVos down at Jefferson. We don’t condone such acts. We want her to go to pub schls.” This defense of DeVos and condemnation of courageous protesters illustrates her troubling disregard for the people she represents. A couple months later, Weingarten accompanied DeVos on her tour of public schools in Ohio. This particular district was chosen due to DeVos’ belief that the area would benefit greatly from school choice and voucher initiatives. Weingarten claims to oppose DeVos at every turn – so why is she with her as she scopes out potential locales to implement her malignant agenda?

On top of these dubious school tours, it was recently reported that Weingarten had a secret meeting with Steven Bannon back in April. How disturbing to learn that our union president is having closed-door meetings with fascist scum. Weingarten claims she was there to defend public education – our “hero” going toe-to-toe with the Trump Administration. Well, if that was the case, then why keep it from the public? Wouldn’t she want people to know she was taking a stand for public education? When elected officials refuse to be open about their actions, it leads one to suspect dishonesty and ulterior motives. Weingarten has absolutely no business meeting with someone as repulsive as Bannon. You don’t sit and discuss white supremacy and bigotry – you shut that shit down. These are not conversations that civilized people have. We do not owe the alt-right this type of consideration.

When this issue was brought forth in November’s ATF Fed Rep Council, union leadership and a few of her flunkies tied themselves up in knots defending Weingarten and justifying the secret meeting. Union leaders “trust” Weingarten and say she vehemently opposes all the evils seeking to destroy public education. Others said we have to keep an open-mind, even with people we oppose. Others claimed that Weingarten is off the hook because she is a Jewish lesbian who wouldn’t be rubbing shoulders with such a person. And even another said that we can’t blame Randi for a secret meeting, because maybe it was Bannon who wanted it to be a secret. There’s a lot to unpack.

If Weingarten opposes the evils facing education, she should prove it. Not with words, but by immediately ceasing her continued contact with the Trump Administration. As for open-mindedness, why on earth should we be open, to any extent, to the decimation of public education and the rise of the alt-right. This isn’t a conversation we entertain. This is an agenda we meet with forceful pushback through direct and collective action in the defense of our schools and communities. A concept largely foreign to current union leadership at all levels. Randi’s heritage does not absolve her from this wrongdoing and it matters not whose idea it was to have a secret meeting. Weingarten should never have been at the meeting. Period. She should have declined to meet with Bannon due to the fact that he is an alt-right fascist. And since she is paid by union members, she does indeed owe explanations to the rank-and-file for her actions.

Weingarten is clearly no friend of the working class. She is part of a business union hierarchy that serves the capitalist ruling class. Pair that with the material benefits of her half a million dollars salary and it is obvious why she has no interest in her constituency and the needs and desires of the rank-and-file. The fact that local union leadership and some members will work so hard to make excuses for Weingarten shouldn’t come as a surprise. This driveling justification of indefensible actions leads us down a path in which abominations like white supremacy become normal. A path where we convince ourselves that to have an open mind, we must make space for great evil. Until we can clearly recognize friend from foe, we are doomed to continue to fall victim to the ruling class. Our union leadership is so consumed with their position of power and wealth, that they have completely abandoned the rank-and-file. It is incumbent upon us to realize our collective power and recognize the mutually exclusive interests of capital and labor while acknowledging that our current union leadership serves the former. We are called to flex our unified strength to kick these sorry ass parasites to the curb. Recognize friend from foe and engage in the struggle. Unite and resist.

– Mary Kelly

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