Randi Weingarten, Twitter, and “Secret Society” Membership
Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy is a corporate reformer’s gift. He appointed Stefan Pryor, the co-founder of a major charter chain as state education commissioner. Even as traditional public education in Connecticut is underfunded, the number of charter schools grows. Malloy also believes in evaluating teachers using student test scores. He publicly stated that teachers “only have to show up for four years” in order to get collective bargaining rights.
Not only does Malloy not respect teachers; he is actively working to destroy traditional public education.
But, you see, the Connecticut American Federation of Teachers (CT-AFT) is willing to forgive because CT-AFT has other members, and according to CT-AFT President Melodie Peters, Malloy is nice to those other members:
Melodie Peters, the president of AFT-Connecticut, whose 29,000 members include teachers and a diverse collection of other professions, including health care employees, said Malloy supported AFT’s efforts to organize workers at Backus Hospital more than a year ago, as well his efforts to push Lawrence + Memorial to settle recently.
The labor movement is far better off with Malloy, who is the first Democratic governor in two decades, than without him, she said.
“Have mistakes been made along the way? Absolutely,” she said. “I would defy anyone to tell me that I’m perfect. When you have speechwriters, sometimes those things happen, right?” …
The delegates gave him a standing ovation. [Emphasis added.]
Malloy is running for re-election. In June 2014, CT-AFT gave Malloy their endorsement because he’s a Democrat–oh, and he *really* “respects” collective bargaining rights:
AFT’s endorsement of Malloy and the other five statewide constitutional officers, all Democrats, would barely be noteworthy in other years, but the governor’s relationship with labor in general and teachers in particular has been eventful. …
Leaders of AFT-Connecticut and other public-employee unions have said that Malloy deserved labor’s support for respecting collective bargaining rights for public employees at a time when they are under attack in other states. [Emphasis added.]
On June 17, 2014, the day that Malloy was officially given the AFL-CIO endorsement that virtually guarantees him a second term, AFT President Randi Weingarten offered wholehearted support for Malloy.
Here is part of Weingarten’s sorry justification for her support:
“There are a lot of people who say things they shouldn’t say,” Weingarten said. She said she has discussed the remark with Malloy and he sounded “very regretful.” And she said Malloy didn’t end up eliminating tenure—he found a way to make it easier to fire tenured teachers based on poor evaluations, but he didn’t get rid of their right to due process, she argued. [Emphasis added.]
Malloy’s really a good guy. He just made it easier to fire teachers who are being graded using student test scores. That’s all.
Oh, and regarding a resolution aimed at removing Pryor as education commissioner, CT-AFT President Peters– the one who already gave Malloy what he needed– made the statement that she “hopes” the governor “is listening.”
I know. I know. Words cannot capture this moment.
So, basically, a Democratic governor who makes war on the teaching profession is going to have AFT support.
On July 4, 2014, education historian Diane Ravitch published a post about retiring National Education Association (NEA) President Dennis Van Roekel. In the comment section of that post, CUNY Professor Ira Shor wrote the following profound words regarding the inept comfort union leaders have found at the Democratic Party “table”:
Change will only come from mass movements outside the govt and outside the Dem Party. Consolidating a mass progressive movement and an opposition party to challenge Dems is our only future, a tough road. Randi and Dennis are Dem insiders with seats at the famous alluring table of the establishment; to sit at the table you cannot criticize in public the heads of the table or anyone else who sits there with you; do so, and you will lose your seat.
Randi and Dennis will not commit career suicide by turning the tables and leading their huge memberships in mass opposition. They will not break openly with the Dem Party now controlled by Obama/Duncan/DFER/Gates. This does not mean Randi and Dennis are fools or ignorant of great danger for public education. They cannot retain their privileged positions at the table if they mobilize to fight for public education esp if a Dem is in the White House. b/c NEA/AFT are arms of the Dem Party.
If Hillary runs in ’16, Randi/Dennis will campaign for her no matter what her education platform is, even if RTTT/PARCC/CCSS or whatever replaces them are in place b/c these will be Dem party policies and leaders of AFT/NEA only get their jobs b/c they have already been vetted inside the Dem circle. This is why I post here suggestions that rescuing the public sector is possible only through mass opposition of the Dem Party which has captured the union leaders and union org’s;membership in the Dem establishment requires no organizing teacher militance.
When GOP Giuliani was Mayor Of NYC, Dem Party-affiliate Randi had wiggle room to protest, as reported above. Since ’08, Dems in power. Randi arranged key meetings betw Diane and Congressional figures as Diane reported b/c this is what she can do without risking her seat at the table. As an insider, she has access to other insiders for behind-closed-door mtgs betw the premiere public advocate and public policy-makers.
Diane absolutely did the right thing by lobbying these powerful insiders. Such lobbying can affect the insiders only if the lobbyist represents a huge pile of money or a huge mass of mobilized citizens ready to march and vote them out of office. Dems know their electorate has no place to go, no one else to vote for b/c GOP is so scary, will vote for Hillary in’16 no matter what she stands for, unlike the GOP which is now shaky b/c its electorate has a vibrant Tea Party option forcing the whole govt. as well as the GOP it to the right.
At the moment, Dems have no organized mass opposition to their left, so they will not budge. Until progressive leaders like Karen Lewis and Barbara Madeloni take over their unions with lots of mass support, the unions like the PTA will not save the schools.
Until millions of parents Opt Out, the Duncan/Gates regime will continue. Organized mass opposition from below is the key to turning the tide. [Emphasis and paragraph breaks added.]
I agree with Shor that both national teachers unions are “arms of the Democratic Party,” and I add that the likes of Connecticut’s Malloy, and New York’s Cuomo, and Chicago’s Emanuel– all openly defiant against career teachers and traditional public education– will find sure support from AFT and hearty endorsements from Weingarten.
Thus, it did nothing to alter my perspective on the utter selling out that Weingarten will do to teachers in favor of “the Party” for me to learn on July 7, 2014, that in 2013, Weingarten and her assistant, Michelle Ringuette, became members of the secretive Democracy Alliance (DA), a Democratic-Party-promoting group that operates by invitation only.
As Politico reported in in April 2014:
Some of the country’s biggest Democratic donors — including Tom Steyer and Jonathan Soros — are huddling behind closed doors beginning Sunday in Chicago with union bigwigs and progressive superstars like Bill de Blasio to plan how to pull their party — and the country — to the left.
DA conferences are typically kept hush-hush, with locations tightly held, press barred from the sessions and participants prohibited from discussing the proceedings. …
Democracy Alliance partners, as the group calls its members, pay annual dues of $30,000 and are required to contribute a total of at least $200,000 a year to recommended groups. Since its inception in 2005, the DA has steered upward of $500 million to a range of groups, including pillars of the political left such as the conservative media watchdog Media Matters, the policy advocacy outfit Center for American Progress and the data firm Catalist — all of which are run by Clinton allies. [Emphasis added.]
Let us pause for a moment and consider DA-supported Center for American Progress (CAP).
CAP is drawing corporate reform dollars from both left and right. It is also supported by a number of American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) corporations, including AT&T, Eli Lilly, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, PG&E, Time Warner, and T-Mobile. Walmart is also on the list of CAP supporters, though Walmart supposedly dropped ALEC. ALEC actively works to privatize public education. Too, since 2008, the Gates Foundation has paid CAP $5.6 million in the form of 7 grants.
Leonie Haimson of Class Size Matters has this to offer regarding AFT association with CAP:
It would be unfortunate if union dues were going to CAP, which has put out some really toxic reports and is almost indistinguishable from the right-wing think tanks on a host of education issues. They did a particularly heinous report on class size, for example, full of misinformation.
Back to DA and Weingarten’s involvement:
In May 2014, Washington Free Beacon found a new member listing that had apparently been accidentally left behind at the May 2014 DA conference. Both Weingarten and Ringuette are listed as new members in 2013:
If the cost to “belong” is an annual fee of $30,000 plus a commitment to support DA-selected organizations for at least $200,000 per year, I am guessing that AFT is footing this “secret society” bill, not Weingarten and Ringuette.
Yet Weingarten could.
According to AFT’s 2012 990, Weingarten could afford DA’s secret pricetag; her total compensation was $ 549,722 ($454,416 on the W-2, plus $95,206 in “estimated other compensation” from July 01, 2011 to June 30, 2012). Ringuette is not listed on this form; however, “executive vice president” Francine Lawrence only raked in $128,000; so, I’m guessing Weingarten “right hand” Ringuette isn’t pulling nearly enough salary to pay her own “secret society dues.”
On July 8, 2014, after an apparent Twitter bout on her DA membership, Weingarten admitted to belonging to DA. She tried to dodge the issue, but two principals, Tim Farley and Peter Osroff, pressed the issue:
The July 8, 2014, Washington Free Beacon article regarding the above tweets closes with comments from Osroff and Farley:
Peter Osroff, a middle school principal in Garden City, N.Y., suggested Weingarten was being hypocritical. When she insisted that “fighting the Koch Bros” is a legitimate use of AFT dues, he replied, “You mean the Koch Brothers who donate $ BILLIONS to charities?”
Weingarten should be up front about AFT’s involvement in opaque political groups, Farley said.
“In my opinion, the biggest issue is the lack of transparency,” he said. “If AFT is proud to be a part of this DA group, then why not publicize it and inform its members of all the wonderful benefits?”
Farley wants “transparency” from Weingarten regarding her DA involvements. However, according to the Politico article cited above, as a DA member, Weingarten agrees to not openly discuss DA business– which complicates the issue of her already-arguably-inappropriate involvement if her involvement is funded by AFT– which it appears to be.
And why would Weingarten want to “belong” to a club in order to support “causes” that “we already contribute to”??
Ironically, on its secretive website (check out just how little information the site actually offers), DA states that one of its goals is to “foster an open,vibrant democracy.” Yet meetings are tightly controlled; no media, and no discussing DA business outside of DA.
As to Weingarten’s comment on Washington Free Beacon’s getting her salary wrong: According to the 2012 990 I link to above, they have it right: She has crossed the half-million-per-year threshold.
A half million per year, folks– and for what? Allegiance to Democratic governors who are chewing up the teaching profession and spitting it out?
Here is DA’s “investment” spiel:
The Democracy Alliance strives to foster:
- An open, vibrant democracy
- An opportunity-driven economy
- A dignity-based foreign policy
- An independent judiciary
We aim to achieve our goals by conducting cutting-edge, fact-based research and due diligence, evaluating gaps and opportunities in progressive movement infrastructure, and recommending support for a portfolio of high-impact organizations and investment opportunities.
We are uniquely positioned to help support organizations and progressive efforts by providing seed capital and growth capital.
The progressive movement needs well-run organizations with increased capacity that can generate ideas, communicate them effectively, mobilize citizens, and train leaders. We recommend organizations that are positioned to have a long-term impact, but are also achieving short-term successes. We recommend organizations that represent the diversity of the progressive movement and this country, and that advance a progressive agenda. Organizations are presented to our Partners who make individual funding decisions.
Funding proposals are reviewed by the DA on an invitation-only basis. We are always pleased to learn more about progressive organizations. Please feel free to contact us for additional information. [Emphasis added.]
I wonder exactly what “progressive agenda advancing” organizations Weingarten and her sidekick Ringuette have decided to “invest” in on behalf of AFT members.
Just don’t ask her about those investment specifics. She promised DA to keep them from us. Then again, Weingarten hails from the Unity Caucus, where secrecy rules “outside of the Caucus,” so DA’s requirements are not foreign to her.
Gotta love selective transparency. That and pulling over half a million per year.
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