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Weingarten’s AFL-CIO Power

February 24, 2014

As I was researching and writing my post, The Gates Grant Addiction, a post in which I use the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) as an illustration of an addiction to Gates money garnered via installments, two pieces of information stood out to me like the final clicking of tumblers in unlocking a revelation.

The first involves information that I have read before but that struck me in a new way for its import as we approach the 2016 presidential election. It is the name of the AFT as it appears on its IRS 990s:

American Federation of Teachers AFL-CIO Parent Organization

It is the “AFL-CIO” piece that strikes me.  Democratic presidential nominees must secure the AFL-CIO endorsement if they hope to move forward in the presidential run. AFL-CIO currently consists of 56 unions representing 12.5 million workers.

AFL-CIO unions are proportionally represented by delegates. AFT has 1.5 million members.

Given its membership numbers, AFT has a lot of pull in the AFL-CIO– which means that Randi Weingarten has a lot of pull.

The second bit of information that provided a “final clicking of the tumblers” concerns Weingarten’s continuing to serve as the New-York-based United Federation of Teachers (UFT) president for a full year after having been elected AFT president.

What an illustration of ueber-control– and a demonstration of the hold Weingarten has on the UFT.

These two bits of information– Weingarten’s AFL-CIO pull coupled with her hold on UFT– were the final components leading me to a major conclusion. But first, allow me to offer the pieces of this puzzle already in place in my own mind.

Let us consider New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. Cuomo has called for the “death penalty” for New York schools labeled “failing.” Moreover, he will not properly fund New York’s public schools. He promoted a tax cap of no more than two percent unless overridden my 60% of a locale’s voters– except for NYC.

Cuomo’s tax break is business-friendly and will lower corporate taxes to 1968 rates.

Cuomo also takes the now-popular education privatizing view that the Common Core (CCSS) is good— just its implementation is bad– and he has the stacked panel to prove it. Plus, Cuomo is fine with grading teachers using student test scores.

Despite Cuomo’s ill treatment of New York public education, in December 2013, New York State Union of Teachers (NYSUT) Vice President Andy Pallotta purchased a $10,000 table at Cuomo’s birthday party fundraiser– against the direction of the rest of NYSUT. NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi called Pallotta out for his renegade decision.

Iannuzzi had no plans to purchase a table– which Iannuzzi knew would send an attendant message of support for Cuomo– given “the sentiments of our members statewide.”

Here’s what one must know about renegade Pallotta:  He is a member of the UFT (actually coming to NYSUT from UFT) and is part of a “pro-Cuomo” drive– a drive that has prompted a NYSUT “reseating” in the state union’s fast-approaching April election– to yield a more Cuomo-friendly NYSUT following.

This is where one must remember AFT’s influence in the AFL-CIO endorsement of a Democratic presidential candidate. First, consider this excerpt concerning the NYSUT-UFT battle and Cuomo’s re-election:

…what this [attempt to unseat NYSUT President Dick Iannuzzi] is really all about is an effort by the UFT to wrest control of its parent union once and for all. This theory is primarily being pushed by the pro-Iannuzzi faction, which thinks Mulgrew, who has a close relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, is particularly miffed that Iannuzzi is apparently unwilling to even entertain the possibility of endorsing the governor for re-election this fall[Emphasis added.]

UFT could support Cuomo for re-election.

UFT wants NYSUT to support Cuomo, as well.

Cuomo is terrible for public education in New York.

UFT is trying to take over NYSUT.

Another piece: Weingarten still exercises control in New York union issues– and Weingarten supports the privatizers. In the recent NYC mayoral election, Weingarten supported Bill Thompson— who was not only financially supported by NY State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch– pro-CCSS and pro-high-stakes-testing Merryl Tisch– but who had Tisch as his campaign chair.

Question: Why is a national teachers union president aligning herself with the likes of Merryl Tisch?

Consider also Weingarten’s cool words on Cuomo’s talk of downsizing NY state agencies– and especially her “conciliatory tone”:

There are two roads you can take,” said Randi Weingarten, who was previously head of the New York City teachers union.

One path, she said, is the “cut-cut-cut-cut of trickle-down economics. … Or you can take the road that even the pope has said, which is that we invest, we rebuild.”

Striking a conciliatory note, Weingarten added that she’s known Cuomo for a long time. “He and I grew up in politics together in New York state,” she said. “I always believe in redemption.” [Emphasis added.]

To those who can read between lines, Weingarten just gave a nod to Cuomo.

How big of a nod, exactly?

Time to bring it home.

Here is my major revelation:

AFT has a lot of sway regarding the AFL-CIO endorsement of the next Democratic presidential candidate. However, Weingarten cannot have this dissent among AFT ranks in the form of NYSUT delegates voting against the AFT “solidarity” (that word is actually a line item on AFT’s tax forms). So, using her influence through UFT, Weingarten plans to unseat NYSUT officers unfriendly to her “unity” cause and replace with UFT “solidarity” folk. If she can accomplish this, then she might sway that AFL-CIO Democratic presidential candidate endorsement– quite the power position to be in– and Weingarten is all about power and control.

And guess who she wants to give that Democratic presidential endorsement to?

Someone she “grew up in politics” with.

Andrew Cuomo.

Why would she do this?

That part is simple: To climb her own career ladder. If she can get Cuomo into the White House, he will owe her.

(A great example of Weingarten’s career drive is her vying for Hillary Clinton’s vacated Senate seat in 2008. As she was pursuing the Senate appointment, Weingarten had recently been elected AFT president and was continuing to hold the position of UFT president.)

I think Weingarten is positioning AFT to be the key in the AFL-CIO endorsement of Cuomo for Democratic candidate for president. Sure, he’s playing coy with the press for now by ot openly declaring his candidacy, but stay tuned. I think it’s coming To A Theater Near You.

That said, if better coattails come along for Weingarten– like, say, Hillary Clinton’s– then Cuomo might be “Dear Johned” by Weingarten and her power-grabbing machinations.

Why, Mercedes, this entire post amounts to nothing more than a patchwork of speculation. You’re just a teacher. What do you know?

Fine. Just ask Weingarten to publicly deny the scenario I propose. When she does so with the same passion she devotes to supporting CCSS, I will consider the matter closed.

However, I wouldn’t dismiss the contents of this post too quickly, especially if you are in New York.

New York, pay close attention to your teachers unions.

From → AFT, Randi Weingarten

12 Comments
  1. Ed in the Apple permalink

    Mercedes, you sound like a conspiratorial Tea Party screamer … Parsing NYS politics from Louisiana .. Hillary is north 70% among likely democratic voters … one the national he’s polling in the low single digits .. In New York State he polls in the mid sixties and Donald Trump could be his opponent. The fight within NYSUT is complex, more based on personalities than policies .. Right now in NYC we are beginning to negotiate a contract and fighting with our mayor against Cuomo over preK funding .. BTW, is Bobby run for prez? What are his chances?

    • Then let Weingarten set the record straight. Conspiracy theorists do not offer such options.

  2. “Just ask Weingarten to publicly deny the scenario I propose.”
    I read this three times, there are a couple of typo’s, but your logic is flawless. A brilliant deduction from a few significant facts is not a patchwork of speculation.
    If you think about the way teachers and children are treated, by administrators, politicians, corporate lackeys, as an abusive relationship. Classic victim-rescuer-persecutor triangle. The way out is to walk away.

  3. Mercedes — good analysis here. Nice to see Peter Goodman, who will justify every action of the UFT make light of the serious NYSUT split fomented by Weingarten/Mulgrew just put things down to “personalities.” Boy does that expose where he is coming from. But one thing he is right about is Randi’s total commitment to Hillary. Your piece does makes sense to me in the context of Cuomo as a backup in case Hillary doesn’t run. I’ve done a lot if reporting on the NYSUT story on ednotes. Complex as Peter says, but certainly about power, politics, money and policy as the current NYSUT leadership now being challenged by the UFT seems to have gone too far in challenging Cuomo.

    • Try this on: Mulgrew supports Cuomo. Mulgrew can also sabotage RW’s re-election. So, he has her in a political corner: Push for Cuomo or face a Mulgrew push to oust you (RW).

      • Actually Mercedes I disagree. The UFT/AFT dynamic has been in operation since Shanker tossed Dave Selden as AFT president in 1974 over the Vietnam war. Mulgrew is a totally owned subsidiary of Randi and will never go against her. Believe me, she would not have picked him as her hand-chosen successor if not. Randi is behind the push for Cuomo in NY State. He is such a longshot for President that is not a factor. Mulgrew and Randi want Hillary. Randi wants to be a top Dem party operator on all levels. So the NYSUT pres Iannuzzi Stronger Together slate which would not endorse Cuomo is a threat to Randi’s playpen.

      • Here’s what I see:

        Both RW and MM are self-serving. If MM falls off of his career ladder, he could go eyeing RW’s. MM has not been able to negotiate a contract for five years, and he has blamed it on Bloomberg. Now Bloomberg is gone, and MM faces re-election. He needs favor with someone, and it isn’t going to be de Blasio. Enter Cuomo. MM needs to offer Cuomo something– like AFL-CIO endorsement come August.

        NYSUT is in the way. MM wants to oust NYSUT leadership and insert his own Cuomo-friendly replacements.

        This is unwelcome news for RW, who has her own re-election concerns– not the least of which is the possibility of a freshly-UFT-ousted MM. For her own re-election hopes in July, she wants a unified NY (under UFT control).

        Now come the behind-closed-doors negotiations, something along the order of, “NYSUT, let MM have his way with endorsing Cuomo.”

        You can guess how that would have gone over.

        So, a heated NY union election it is. RW wants MM to get what he wants in order to feel that MM won’t threaten what she hopes is her own smooth re-election. (He could still throw his hat into the ring, anyway, of course.)

        RW might be tight with the Clintons, but that doesn’t help her in this situation.

        She will push for Cuomo to keep MM in his UFT office– and out of her AFT election.

  4. Duane Swacker permalink

    Fireworks in Austin???

  5. This just came in my e-mail: the Clinton Foundation is teaming up with the Gates Foundation (Chelsea, Hilary, Melinda) to collect data on women worldwide, thus *empowering* women.

  6. believer in democracy being followed even if you disagree permalink

    Dear Mercedes,
    This commentary is an eye opener for us rank & file members in RI who are opposing the Settlement Agreement that the leadership is pushing down our throats.
    I and many like me believe the Union leadership AFT-R sold us out. We will have had our rights taken from us if this settlement agreement goes through–that mean I will not be able to opt out and litigate in the courts with my own lawyer. I will no longer be represented by the union lawyer because she is bound to the Settlement Agreement and what the Leadership tells her. In fact she told me, a dues paying union member for over 30 plus years to get another lawyer-she cannot represent me. She called throwing me under the bus “conflict of interest” and now I see the divide & conquer strategy ” being done to us who don’t agree with the pittance they expect us to accept plus give away all my legal rights…And I have been told the national organization wants this SA to go through..that RI is the test case for pension reform in the country. Need help- any labor lawyer out there willing to tackle Big Goliath (AFT- and NEA and RIAFT-R leadership) and help us “Little David’s” with the democratic right of being able to opt out and be able to litigate on our own?
    This is big. I can tell you how they even shut down live-streaming , the Q&A segment, to my fellow brothers & sisters in other states who could not attend the mtg
    You call this the democratic process?
    I call it divide & conquer and silence those who oppose…Thank you.

    • Believer, I just posted a comment above about Mulgrew pressure on RW to endorse Cuomo. RW might want Hillary; however, she is in a corner because Mulgrew has the means to push her out at the next AFT election.

      Serious food for thought.

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