Who’s right on unions?: César Chávez or Campbell Brown and Michelle Rhee? The critics of teachers and their organizations come and go. For a while Michelle Rhee was the darling of the anti-union forces. In Michelle Rhee’s greatest hits, she was quoted as saying,
“People often say to me the teachers unions are here to stay, that they are big players, that I have to find a way to get along. I actually disagree with that.”
“People tell me the unions are an inevitable part of this [school reform]. My thing is, what has that gotten us so far? All the collaboration and holding hands and singing ‘Kumbaya’?”
After creating conflict in DC, Rhee went on to found Students First. Students First’s biggest publicity stunt was arguably their State Policy Report Card (SPRC). A look at the 2014 version clearly shows bias in their “methodology” against states that provide teacher input and say in education policy. For example, states were dinged in the report card if teacher evaluation was subject to collective bargaining. Her tenure at Students First was short lived when it was announced Michelle Rhee Will Leave CEO Job At StudentsFirst. My sources here in Sacramento tell me that the organization is having a fire sale on their possessions and space.
So Michelle Rhee is going, going, gone. What’s interesting is that Larry Cuban predicted her demise two years ago in the post Kiss Michelle Rhee Goodbye He wrote,
With regret, I blow a kiss goodbye to Michelle Rhee even now as she rides the cresting wave of “America’s most famous school reformer.”
Now, that is a prognosticator. Prophet points for Larry Cuban (Earlier on Cloaking Inequity, prophets points were deducted for Rod Paige Sec. Paige vs. Sen. Wellstone: Testing, Accountability, and Prophetic Pronouncements and Andrew Rotherham You be the Judge: Are the @DFER_News Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing?)
Is the new anti-teacher darling going to be Campbell Brown (or has she gone already)? The New York Observer wrote
Campbell Brown left television to do battle with powerful teachers unions.
Ms. Brown thinks she has history on her side.
“What I’d love to see is for us to reach a tipping point the way we did for marriage equality. Where there was so much focus and attention around an issue that it forced many people to wake up, to really take a moment and think about it and realize that it was a moral issue,” she said.
“And I’d love,” she adds, “to help create that same kind of moment.”
I was actually surprised to find out recently that Campbell Brown follows me on Twitter (@ProfessorJVH). I suspect I might get deleted after this post. So were/are Campbell Brown and Michelle Rhee right on unions?
Speaking of history…Happy Birthday César Chávez! Today and everyday we honor César Chávez and his leadership in the struggle for the rights of people. I drew from the archive of his wisdom on the UFW website to contrast Chávez with Rhee and Brown. The format is commonly asked questions and arguments posed by critics of unions answered by Chávez.
Do unions stand in the way of “reform”?
When you have people together who believe in something very strongly – whether it’s religion or politics or unions – things happen.
Should we fear unions?
There is a great fear of our Union – a fear that I do not fully understand, but that I know is present…What is it that causes some men to act so hastily and so cruelly? It cannot be that we are so powerful…
Can unions lead to more social justice?
The road to social justice for the farm worker is the road of unionization. Our cause, our strike against table grapes and our international boycott are all founded upon our deep conviction that the form of collective self-help, which is unionization, holds far more hope for the farm worker than any other single approach, whether public or private. This conviction is what brings spirit, high hope and optimism to everything we do.
That is the original quote… could it also read?
The road to social justice for [students] is the road of unionization. Our cause, our strike against Rahm Emanuel school closures and our fight against high stakes testing are all founded upon our deep conviction that the form of collective self-help, which is unionization, holds far more hope for students than any other single approach, whether public or private. This conviction is what brings spirit, high hope and optimism to everything we do.
…So they are trying to do something about it. They are not doing it by seeking charity. They are not begging at the welfare office. They are not, like many of their employers, lobbying the halls of Congress with their gold plated tin cups asking to be paid for not growing crops. They are trying to do it in the way that millions of other Americans have shown is the right way-organization, unionism, collective bargaining.
Should unions picket and strike?
Organizing is an educational process. The best educational process in the union is the picket line and the boycott. You learn about life.
Are unions only about money or instead organizing?
The life of the union depends upon more people getting to share the limelight, because with the limelight also comes responsibility and with the responsibility comes a little sharing of the load.
There isn’t enough money to organize poor people. There never is enough money to organize anyone. If you put it on the basis of money, you’re not going to succeed.
Until the chance for political participation is there, we who are poor will continue to attack the soft part of the American system – its economic structure. We will build power through boycotts, strikes, new union – whatever techniques we can develop. These attacks on the status quo will come, not because we hate, but because we know America can construct a humane society for all its citizens – and that if it does not, there will chaos.
Are unions democratic?
Our union represents a breaking away…represents sharing a power, represent questioning, represents a new force…however long it takes, we are geared for a struggle.
Are unions the “fat cats”?
Our struggle is not easy. Those who oppose our cause are rich and powerful and they have many allies in high places. We are poor. Our allies are few. But we have something the rich do not own. We have our bodies and spirits and the justice of our cause as our weapons.
Do I think unions are perfect? I discussed this previously in the post EdWeek Series Beyond Rhetoric: Should Teachers Unions Reform? No. But, I, the grandson of farmworkers, choose César Chávez and his vision for organizing the people and democracy. Who do you choose?
Your other homework for today, it you haven’t already seen it…
You can’t oppress someone who is not afraid anymore
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