AFT praises Rahm Emanuel during Chicago strike authorization vote

American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten was in Chicago on May 23rd to speak out forcefully for the teachers during the 8,000-plus CTU rallies. "It is pretty interesting how the rich are getting richer, how the banks are getting bailed out, yet, except those who are working hard every single day who are educating the kids," Ms. Weingarten screamed into the microphone at the rally inside the Auditorium Theater. Ms. Weingarten then went outside to march, arm-in-arm, alongside CTU President Karen Lewis, Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr., and Illinois Federation of Teachers President Dan Montgomery at the front of a massive march that Substance estimated at between 8,000 and 10,000 people, most of them wearing "CTU red" through Chicago's Loop.

Chicago Teachers Union officials were happy that American Federation of Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten brought the greetings of the 1.5 million member union to the CTU's massive rallies and march on May 23, 2012, while many union members remain suspicious of Weingarten. Although she was introduced as a "teacher" to the crowd inside the Auditorium Theater, the fact was that Weingarten never taught a full program for one full year in New York city's public schools, where she worked for the union as a lawyer during those years. Her "teaching" consisted of part-time work at one local high school, teaching a seminar on law for some of the most carefully selected students in the city. Behind Weingarten during her remarks on May 23, above, are Karen Lewis, Dan Montgomery, Jess Jackson Sr., and Aldermen Bob Fioretti and Nick Sposato, along with a large number of Chicago teachers and retired teachers who are part of the union's broader bargaining team. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.But this week, less than three weeks later, the AFT President was back in Chicago in the middle of a tumultuous Chicago Teachers Union strike authorization vote to applaud Mayor Rahm Emanuel — and the 1%.

"Whether it's the mayor's infrastructure program here in Chicago, or eventually everything else we're doing around the country, is that when labor and business start working good together on trying to put people back to work with good jobs, when we start building things, it builds hope around the country," Weingarten said. ABC News, which quoted her above, reported that "Mayor Emanuel is in a love fest with the American Federation of Teachers today."

Is there any doubt about where the AFT and Weingarten's allegiance lies? Could her timing not have been better to sing the praises of a corporate branded mayor who has gone to war against the teachers union?

Believe me, this was an order from the White House. The AFT president who invited anti-union, charter school advocate and multi-billionaire Bill Gates to the last AFT convention in Seattle, knows who her bosses are.

The AFT is what you call a "company union" who does not really challenge anti-worker policies, and endorses political leaders who sell out the workers to hedge funds and other corporate movers and shakers who hate unions.

Skepticism about the leadership of Randi Weingarten of the AFT had been high since she ignored the intense labor history of Seattle and the Pacific Northwest during the 2010 AFT convention, which was held in Seattle, and instead provide billionaire Bill Gates with a featured spot to speak to the convention. Weingarten ignored Gates's consistent record of subsidizing teacher bashing attacks, including much of the "bad teacher" propaganda that has infected the national debate, and praised Gates during her introduction of his speech (above) on July 10, 2010 at the AFT convention. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Weingarten's disciple, former CTU president Marilyn Stewart, Substance founder and CTU consultant George Schmidt has argued, helped catapult Arne Duncan into Washington D.C. to head the nation's schools because of his labor peace with the CTU. That was because Stewart barely raised an eyebrow when he started closing and privatizing schools.

In one laughable moment at a Chicago Board of Education meeting, Stewart spoke and then smiled, as she made the 'I'll call you' hand signal to Duncan to show her close relationship to the then Chicago schools chief.

Today, that company union president has been voted out, and Karen Lewis and the fighting caucus CORE (who many long-time union insiders thought had no chance to win the union election) is in.

There is now a battle between the union and the government in the city of big shoulders.

Weingarten and the AFT are going into overdrive to legitimize Emanuel at a time when his attacks on the teachers union has resulted in this week's strike authorization vote.

Is there any doubt about the role major unions in this country play today?

When the City College part-time teachers were ready to march out on strike in 2002, it was their own union - AFSCME - who forced the teachers to call off the strike.

Now suddenly, when a major teachers union is actually going to bat for the teachers and fighting the powers that have decimated unions and the middle class as the income gap has grown tremendously, it becomes more and more clear that our corporate branded government continues to work with the major unions to force further attacks on the working class without a fight.

Remember the massive protests in Wisconsin eighteen months ago when Gov. Scott Walker ran through a bill to gut collective bargaining for the unions.

Who was it that helped bring calm, tell the people to go home, and say we can go to the voting booth to bring justice (although the Walker recall just failed)?

Why, the unions of course.

So understand, the CTU and President Lewis are under tremendous pressure, not just from the ruling class, but from their so-called union brothers and sisters in New York, to forget a strike and get on with business as usual.

You know - cutting teachers benefits and compensation, destroying job security, closing public schools and otherwise destroying one of the last unionized sectors of our economy, while waiting for Arne's call.


June 9, 2012 at 6:38 PM

By: Rich Gibson

Summer of resistance or retreats

As the unionites and labor bosses try desperately to be sure there is no real struggle in the schools this year (but a lot of fake struggle) parts of the rank and file are, at last, beginning to rise up. Chicago is clearly in the lead, while Detroit's Fed of Teacher is in a state of near collapse. UTLA will probably ratify a concession contract and their misleaders are busy deflecting a small but rightfully angry insurgent movement in the union. San Diego EA just shoved aside a mainstream leader, Camille Zombro, replaced her with a president who ran on a no concessions platform and, this week, began to set the members up for concessions. Both NEA and AFT have national conventions this year. It will be interesting, at least, to see the yellow rats who run the unions try to divert attention from Obama, his wars and bailouts, to Duncan alone, and perhaps a whine about high-stakes exams. Great article Jim and thanks!

June 11, 2012 at 9:59 PM

By: Anthony Smith

Randi Weingarten Hypocrite

I remember reading some of our New York brother and sisters comments about Ms. Weingarten. They were not supportive of her. Your piece here was very enlightening and explained why she is not liked in New York.

I always assumed that Ms. Stewart's people rigged the votes for her. I was very happy to see her go. Karen is the leader we need to get the job done.

90% Hoo-Rah!

Keep up the excellent reporting and analysis.

Best wishes,


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