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Richard Berman’s Declared Union-bashing Strategy

January 14, 2014

On January 13, 2014, I published a post about Richard Berman’s Center for Union Facts (CUF) attack on the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) via its five-story billboard in Times Square (and its similar, full-page New York Times ad in December 2013).

I believe that this barrage of CUF ads is the direct result of recently-elected New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s both challenging former NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s eleventh-hour charter co-location and considering charging NYC charters rent for their heretofore free squatting in publicly-funded buildings.

I had heard that Berman employed a similar strategy in attacking New Jersey teachers unions years ago.

It so happens that I just found an article in which Berman’s New Jersey intention was showcased– at a Philanthropy Roundtable summit in Manhattan in April 2009.

(An aside: Gates has funded Philanthropy Roundtable $1.6 million since 2005, with most of the money for “general operating support” from November 2009 to September 2012.)

The entire article is very revealing for the scores of privatizers featured in the piece. NYC charter madam Eva Moskowitz was present, as was Berman.


I would like to post only the excerpts specific to Moskowitz and Berman; however, the entire article is worth a careful read as a historical “reformer text.” (How’s that for a Common-Core-sounding assignment?) This was 2009– five years have passed. Consider the steadfastness of purpose of these so-called reformers.

We must stop them.

And now, the excerpt on Moskowitz:

Eva Moskowitz is CEO of Success Charter Network, which operates four charter schools in Harlem and serves 1,400 students. She laid out her two main goals: educating kids at an exceptionally high level and changing the rules of the game so that all children have a better public education. One way her organization is going about achieving the two goals is going through a Harlem market share strategy. “We want 51 percent of Harlem families to be educating their kids in schools of choice,” she said. Harlem has the highest concentration of public charter schools in the country, and Moskowitz has hosted parent choice fairs where all types of local schools were invited to have booths and showcase their product. Over 5,000 parents attended in what Moskowitz described as a “celebration of parent choice but also a very practical service. She has organized numerous events, bringing together elected officials and 6,800 charter parents, to send the message that charters are now “a force to be reckoned with.” Moskowitz recognized that the main obstacle standing between scaling and quality is the politics of education. “You cannot focus as much on literacy if you are fighting off the teachers’ union.” [Emphasis added’]

Talk about pots and kettles and the color black: If Moskowitz is about anything, it is the “politics of education.” No traditional public school system would have closed its doors and required its admin, faculty, staff, parents and students to march across the Brooklyn Bridge in a political protest against a mayoral candidate– and in the company of the opposing (free-rent-supporting) candidate.

And if you haven’t read the exchange of over 100 emails between Moskowitz and former NYC Chancellor Joel Klein– well, it doesn’t get any more “politics of education” than those emails reveal.

Ahh, but she does detest her some teachers union!

At this so-called “philanthropy” roundtable, Moskowitz is in good company– and none so good as Richard Berman.

And now, here he is, the money-siphoning, would-be destroyer of collective bargaining himself:

Richard Berman, founder and executive director of the Center for Union Facts, made the first pitch: separating the brand of teachers’ unions from that of teachers with an advertising campaign. He described a test campaign in Newark, where ads were placed on roving billboards and bus signs. Within 90 days, parents’ opinions of teachers unions dropped dramatically. Not only was it effective, but “the teachers’ union tried to sue us to stop us… so they obviously felt it was working,” Berman said.

On the question of whether it would be effective to scale this campaign nationally with the proper investment, Berman noted that they received no criticism from the Newark test, mainly because people accept the idea that there are incompetent teachers in the classroom who are protected by tenure. The idea behind this campaign is to change the reform environment. “If people are trying to get charter schools, vouchers, or merit pay instituted in their localities, they are going up against a big gorilla that has great public opinion,” he said. To combat this, Berman’s campaign seeks to diminish the positive public opinion of teachers’ unions nationwide. [Emphasis added.]

Here Berman admits that teachers unions traditionally experience strong positive opinion– so let’s smear to destroy it and move in reforms that serve the profit margins of corporate America in the name of serving the public.

In the NYC of 2014, Berman has quite the task ahead of him: NYC is not an environment for “new” reforms; it is a city beaten by twelve years of devastating mayoral control under Bloomberg, and “the public” has already spoken its piece by electing a mayor who will not “follow the Bloomberg plan”– beginning with confronting NYC’s mushroomed charter school industry.

I hope that the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) will counter-attack Berman and plaster NYC with messages about the abuses experienced by NYC’s non-unionized charter school teachers and the benefits of a stable, protected teacher work force.

Time for Operation Berman Boomerang.

  1. Hannah permalink

    … as a sidebar, this article is reminding me of the power of propaganda, and the importance of teaching children to think for themselves and not be swayed by fancy advertisements… (note to self, find more examples of false advertising to share with students)

  2. EllenLubic permalink

    It is mind boggling that the IRS will give 501c3 status to so many of Berman’s
    self enriching foundations. Our government is definitely NOT OUR government
    when this cheat can get away with having politically directed non profits, and
    he gets the ok for it by the IRS…and the leaders of this nation.

  3. laMissy permalink

    Re: the Philanthropy Roundtable summit of 2009: of all the obnoxious remarks from people who have NEVER spent time with kids in a classroom are those of Tom Vander Ark (former executive director of education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, currently a partner in Learn Capital, a venture capital firm):

    “He went on to describe his three big ideas within that revolution: new learning tools, new schools, and new investment vehicles. Vander Ark observed that ‘it is crazy that our kids go home and use very sophisticated entertainment products while we still do school the way we did a hundred years ago…why can those tools not be used at school?’ One example would be to use students’ iPods for streaming history content from some of the top scholars in the field. New schools that take advantage of these personalized tools can ‘blend the best of on-site learning and the best of online learning…’ ”

    Schools are not supposed to be a marketplace for entertainment products!
    Schools are not supposed to be investment vehicles!
    Schools ought to be run for the benefit of kids!

    Things you do not know if you have never taught.

  4. Mercedes
    Maybe a year ago responding to Berman may have been useful – a new Mayor, an experienced educator Chancellor, a former teacher as chair of the Education Committee of the City Council, looking to the future is a more fruitful expenditure of union funds. A fight for the full funding of Universal-PreK, negotiating a new teacher contract (the current contract expired 10-31-09) and a re-writing of the teacher evluation law are priorities. And, hopefully, a way to re-examine CCSS and back off the absurd testing regimen. It has been 20 years in NYC since we have had a progressive mayor – a window to make substantive changes – under the Bloomberg regency the union was forever fighting off mayoral assaults – now – working with a progressive, pro-education mayor is the priority.

  5. AFT needs to fight back. Berman is assaulting the union now for a reason- precisely because of the changing political climate in NYC.

  6. Tracy permalink

    The Unions need to start doing their job, fighting FOR P.U.B.L.I.C. schools, plain and simple. They need to publicize the attacks that have occurred, the casualties, and show the many successes that have occurred despite the adversity. They need to spend gobs of money on advertising, just as the enemy does. The difference will be theirs will have truth and the predatory reformers will not. The public is smart enough to see that. The public generally loves their own school, but is being misled about “other” schools…so tell the story of everyone’s school and their successes despite the attacks. If it is against the law for schools to do it themselves, then it must be incumbent upon the unions to fight back with their own PR.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. Schneider Offers Advice to NYC’s Teachers’ Union: Operation Boomerang! | Diane Ravitch's blog
  2. The UFT Requires a Strong, Quality Prophylactic For Such a Colossal . . . Richard | Blind Noise

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