National union leaders still 'on the bus' (NEA, literally) with Arne Duncan despite Chicago... Randi, Randi every tweet... How often did the real Randi Weingarten every stand up on Twitter during the Chicago strike?

Seeing that America Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten got her picture taken on the picket line outside Fulton Elementary School early on in the Chicago Teacher Strike, I started watching her on Twitter. I know the very mention of Twitter makes a lot of peoples’ teeth ache. I feel the same way about FaceBook. Nonetheless, I think what the AFT, Randi Weingarten, NEA and Dennis van Roekel chose to post on Twitter during the strike is revealing.

The front of the September 12, 2012 march of Chicago teachers and supporters during the Chicago Teachers Strike of 2012. Substance photo by Graham Hill.Note for Twitter-o-phobes: Twitter users can send their own messages of up to 120 characters (called a Tweet) and they can ReTweet messages of people they follow, which means sending them to the people who follow them. “Follow” means you sign up for specific people so you can watch what they Tweet. When you send a message with an “@” in front of a name, such as @educationnation,” that means you want to be sure that person/group sees the message. It will appear on Twitter and also go directly into their e-mail. So when the AFT sends a fawning tweet starting, @educationnation, they hope the creeps at Rockefeller Center will read it. Depending on how paranoid and/or cynical you are, you might suspect that the purpose is to inform their followers they’re communicating with NBC. A "#" in front of a name/topic means that this is a discussion topic and if you enter that term into a Twitter search, you can see what everyone is saying on that topic. You’ll see that the AFT has a few messages with #CTUStrike, showing they hope people in Chicago will notice they’re thinking about them.

Checking out Randi Weingarten on Twitter involves a bit of a mystery. The Randi Weingarten who Tweets as @PresidentofAFT has 56,672 followers, which suggests that a lot of people think this is Randi Weingarten. @PresidentofAFT follows 95 people, a rather mind-boggling list of people, starting off with Antilla E. Trotter III, a D. C. attorney and lobbyist, and quickly jumping to a long list of celebrities: Jim Carrey; Ellen DeGeneres; Ashton Kutcher; Kim Kardashian; Neill Patrick Harris; Chelsea Handler; Oprah Winfrey; Larry King, and on and on and on.

This @PresidentofAFT seems devoted to retweeting the offerings of @charlespgarcia, who writes op-eds for CNN, FoxNews & Huffington Post. On Sept. 18, a critical day for the Chicago Teachers Union, @PresidentofAFT Retweeted “Happy 65th birthday to the U.S. Air Force!”; a Time magazine story about used car prices; a Heritage Foundation item on international trade; a Denver Post story about dog stranded on a mountain. The only thing I saw about the Chicago Teachers Strike was on Sept. 20 when @charlespgarcia Tweeted a link to a Wall Street Journal article about the Chicago compromise, saying, “Great analysis of the final compromise.” @PresidentofAFT replied, “Don’t get me started.”

Above (left) Vice President Joe Biden and AFT President Randi Weingarten sit while Jill Biden, a teacher, speaks to the AFT convention in Detroit on July 29, 2012. Substance photo by Kati Gilson. The other Randi Weingarten tweets as @rweingarten, has fewer followers (14,640) and follows lots more people (1,420), none of them Kim Kardashian or Larry King. More about her coming up.

@AFTunion follows 458 and has 5,765 followers. Let’s start with what they’ve been doing. On September 17, @AFTunion Tweeted a statement about RNs saving a Jersey City hospital; they Tweeted to celebrate Constitution Day, urging people to register to vote. @AFTunion Retweeted four PR statements from @Obama2012 and a notice from St Louis members “getting excited and decorating the union hall for President Weingarten’s visit!”

Here are @AFTUnion Tweets for Sept. 18, a critical day for Chicago teachers—and for teachers across the country. For easier reading, I’ve supplied titles of recommended articles instead of hot links. September 18

• “Standing up for Teachers” (Washington Post column) via @Eugene_Robinson

• Planting a future: Greenhouse skills rehabilitate prison inmates – “Growing Fish in a Greenhouse”

• “What has happened to the middle class” via @NHLaborNews #1u #solidarity #p2 • @EducationNation 2012 Teacher Town Hall will take place on Sunday, Sept. 23rd – “Brian Williams Announces 2012 Teacher Town Hall”

• #CTUStrike suspended -- teachers fought 4 resources kids need to succeed -textbooks, $ for art, music, PE etc. Link to “AFT Statement on Chicago Educators’ Vote to Return to School”

• Retweet from ‏@rweingarten: Chicago won because teachers/parents united to stand up for kids, critical resources, learning over testing . Link to “AFT State Statement on Chicago Educators’ Vote to Return to School”

• Retweet from: ChicagoTeachersUnion ‏@CTULocal1 Delegates just voted to suspend the #CTUStrike • Retweet from @rweingarten: Issues raised by Chicago strike resonate nationally because they r being felt by teachers students&parents everywhere

• Retweet from @rweingarten: Chicago won because teachers/parents united to stand up for kids, critical resources, learning over testing “AFT Statement on Chicago Educators’ Vote to Return to School”

• #CTUStrike suspended - teachers fought 4 resources kids need to succeed -textbooks, $ for art, music, PE etc. “AFT Statement on Chicago Educators’ Vote to Return to School”

• Pres @rweingarten statement on #CTUStrike suspension “AFT Statement on Chicago Educators’ Vote to Return to School”

The majority of the Chicago delegation to the Detroit AFT convention sat during the Biden speech, then leafleted the delegates with a leaflet that read STOP RACE TO THE TOP. Substance photo by Kati Gilson. • Retweet: @m_rhee- Mayor Emanuel calls agreement new day for city schools. Why continue to bash teachers instead of celebrating victory 4 kids?

• (Chicago teacher) ‏@MSGunderson replied, “It will only be a new day if the Democratic party quits harmful corp ed reform in our city. Our struggles are not over.

• ICYMI: Eugene Robinson's column –link to 'Standing Up For Teachers'

• Please take a moment to thank Eugene Robinson for his defense of teachers: #1u #p2 #education

That’s it. Then it’s on to a picture of Randi Weingarten “helping student make a "jellyfish" at Buder Elementary in St. Louis.” It’s interesting that Randi remains standing—far above the students--even though there are empty kinder chairs nearby.

The next Tweet directs readers to the AFT’s new venture: “@rweingarten discusses a @sharemylesson lesson plan on the ocean with a pre-K teacher at Buder Elementary in St. Louis.” Share My Lesson is such a deplorable mishmash of lessons purportedly tied to the Common Core that it makes the Gates-funded LearnZillion, launched for the same purpose, look good. ( Oh well, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave millions to LearnZillion too. LearnZillion is regrettable, but Share My Lesson is is an embarrassment.

Now we get to what I assume is the real Randi Weingarten on Twitter, following 1,420, followed by 14,642.

On Sept. 16, I wondered why she was retweeting Joanne Jacobs quips. Jacobs is a media fellow at the “Free economy” Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy, and at the Hoover Institution. But never mind, let’s move on to the 17th, the day before the critical Chicago vote. This Randi also posted a link to an AFT press release that was published in the New York Times, “The Struggle in Chicago.” She posted another Tweet saying, “Great discussion of effects of poverty on public education on Chris Hayes' show today.” She might have noted that fireball Chicago parent activist Matt Farmer was on that show, as was Julie Cavanagh, eloquent New York City teacher activist who is the co-producer/narrator of the film “The Inconvenient Truth Behind Waiting for Superman.” She retweeted a Steven Greenhouse tweet of a New York Times article, “Thousands Attend Rally for Chicago Teachers as Union Nears Contract.” She answered a Texas question , “Will AFT compete against NEA in the South?” with “Shouldn’t be a competition.”

September 17

• Of course we are supporting our local-teachers need time to digest deal. @RWwatchMA: Did #aft intervene in #ctustrike

• Gonzalez is right @ctulocal1 changed the convo — now members digesting the deal- “Chicago Teachers Union leader Karen Lewis pushed back — and won” (by Juan Gonzalez via @nydailynews

• There is no trust for good reason--educators now reviewing the deal."@AdamWallach: @eduwonk @arotherham Randi- this what I was..

• Strike caused by an absence of trust--CTU members taking contract proposal very seriously but needed time to see it. I stand by @CTULocal1.

• Lack of trust for CPS."@uncomfortably: @CTULocal1 apparently a lack of trust in union leadership too since they endorsed this final revision

• Thank you @Eugene_Robinson for standing up for teachers&telling people to visit a school."@TchrNORPAC: So good. @nysut “Stand up for teachers”

• Have felt an urgency all day today- voting tomorrow."@uncomfortably-- It’s difficult as a parent and supporter to not take the delay ...

September 18

• Retweet: @FundEducationFL Teachers are heroes, not villains, and it’s time to stop demonizing them “Stand up for Teachers” @andyfea @rweingarten @floridaea

• Chicago changed the convo, showed that communities uniting and acting collectively can transform schools

• Chicago strike sparked natl convo abt making every school one where parents want 2 send kids/teachers want 2teach “AFT Statement on Chicago Educators’ Vote to Return to School”

• Chicago won because teachers/parents united to stand up for kids, critical resources, learning over testing “AFT Statement on Chicago Educators’ Vote to Return to School”

• Issues raised by Chicago strike resonate nationally because they r being felt by teachers students&parents everywhere “AFT Statement on Chicago Educators’ Vote to Return to School”

• Retweet @TheDailyBeast: Why Romney's video may end his candidacy and start a civil war within the GOP link to “Civil War is Coming as Mitt Romney Campaign Flails in Video’s Wake

• @StudentsFirstHQ & @M_Rhee bashes parents/comm who stood w/Chicago teachers in fight 4 tools & conditions 2 help kids-calls it "status quo"

• Retweet: ‏@aijenpoo (Director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, Co-Director of Caring Across Generations) Congratulations and thanks to Chicago teachers for inspiring us & showing what's possible @rweingarten @domesticworkers @AFLCIO @AFTunion

• Retweet: ‏@MEAll4Schools (Immediate Past President Hillsborough County Council PTA) One CTU victory was textbooks on the first day of class. Why did they have to negociate for that? #dowhatisrightforkids! @rweingarten

• Retweet @HuffPostPol Chick-Fil-A agrees to cease funding to anti-gay organizations, group claims

That was it for September 18.

On September 19, it’s on to other things: Visiting St. Louis, promoting Share My Lesson. And so the whole enterprise was about urging people to vote for Obama and referring people to the official AFT statement. I was stunned by the lack of engagement with educators. @rweingarten seemed to move away from the Chicago issue as quickly as possible. As awkward as she looks in the St. Louis kindergarten, she’s obviously in a much greater comfort zone than any public school in Chicago would provide.

Well, there is another union. Here’s a brief summary of what the NEA was sending out:

On Sept. 16, NEA Today, NEA’s official publication, retweeted a message from Education Votes (which is part of the NEA operation): “Video: ESPs on the importance of political activism. A paraprofessional, library media para and custodian talk activism. On Sept. 17, they tweeted a message about their campaign to get people to write letters to the class of 2025. On Sept. 18: “Teachers are heroes, not villains, and it’s time to stop demonizing them." @Eugene_Robinson column.

On Sept. 18, NEA Media Tweeted, “DVR at student town hall in Topeka: Investment in early childhood education is key for equity down the road #edtour12 (Duncan’s bus tour)” and “Celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month Sept. 15 - Oct. 15. Here are lessons & activities.”

Sept 19

• Check out Lily Eskelsen's latest blog post on a school where dreams come true” (Hint: The school is not in Chicago but in Salt Lake City.)

• Retweeted ASCD: 50 Apps for Educators: No Nonsense, No Fluff, from ASCD

• NEA Prez was at Brown v. Board of Ed site and Teacher Hall of Fame w/ @usedgov on #edtour12. (Van Roekel on Duncan’s bus.)

Not only did NEA fail to mention the Chicago Teachers Strike, wish the teachers well, and explain the significance to its own members, during the strike NEA president Dennis van Roekel was on the bus with Arne. NEA members pay him upwards of $500,000 a year to ride the bus with Arne—literally as well as figuratively.

Sept. 17 Van Roekel was on CSpan about the Teachers Strike but on the 18 he was tweeting messages from Cameron Brenchley Director of Digital Engagement for the U.S. Department of Education, “What does @arneduncan & @neamedia Dennis van Roekel eat on #edtour12?” Complete with pix:

NEA competes with the AFT in having the last word in irrelevance and avoidance, at keeping teachers distracted from the political issues that are destroying their profession. NEA posted this on September 20: “Do you have students who can´t sit still? Here are some ideas.”

I don’t spend a lot of time on Twitter, but on September 16, I was retweeting messages posted by ChicagoTeachersUnion ‏@CTULocal1, @labornotes, Chicago Teacher Solidarity, and half a dozen Chicago teachers. Also Rebel Diaz’s rap “Chicago Teacher,” which exhibits an understanding of the Chicago issues far better than the understanding shown by most media. I also retweeted Rebecca Kemble, Jo Scott-Coe, Paul Thomas, and a Progressive Review note that showed the only national non-union, non-teacher support they could find was: the following:

• Progressive Magazine

• Green Party

• Progressive Review

On September 18 I retweeted the messages of 9 Chicago teachers, sent a message to Arne and the U. S. Department of Education that “the greatest obstacle to teachers accomplishing anything, after poverty, is the U.S. Department of Education.” retweeted Jo Scott-Coe’s message, “Teachers Rock: Until we stand up with demands for better schools. Barefoot & docile at the chalkboard is how politicos want us.” I also retweeted this message from Patrick. J. Sullivan, the one dissenting member of the mayor’s New York City Panel for Education Policy, “No one will ever look upon a teacher and think of him or her as a passive person to be bullied and walked on ever again."

Since the AFT and the NEA leaders seem incapable of talking about the Chicago Teachers Strike –or drawing lessons from it for the enlightenment of the teachers who pay their salaries, I’ll close with two Chicago Teachers.

@tbfurman: Honored to live in the city where teachers pushed back.

@msgunderson began the strike saying, “I was born to teach. I wasn’t born to be a doormat” and ended it with “Going to bed feeling like I was just part of something amazing. Have to get ready for school tomorrow. YEAH!!”

I agree. It was amazing. It was inspiring. It was an action to give all of us who care about the survival of public education hope. As a 20-year teacher who bowed down to the AFT message that we couldn’t negotiate anything but money, I salute Chicago teachers.


September 23, 2012 at 10:31 AM

By: Tim Furman

Clarification For Susan O

Hi Susan,

Just to clarify, I'm not a CPS teacher. I'm a former teacher who lives in Chicago. I support the CTU because they're right on the issues. I'm a technology specialist now.

I'm a member of the IFT-AFT, and I too am mystified by Randi and Dennis. They speak in such nuanced terms, I can't figure out what they're for or against. When all of the states become right-to-work (for less), it will be because people couldn't figure out what unions stood for any more, I'm pretty sure. -@tbfurman

September 23, 2012 at 10:46 AM

By: Anthony Smith

Weingarten SOLD OUT long ago! Time for a change.

Randi Weingarten spoke a good game at the May 23rd rally. Friends from New York (teachers) and friends in Chicago, as well as many on Substance, stated that she is all about herself. She likes to get the notoriety, be the center of attention, steal the limelight from others and pretend that they accomplished what they accomplished only with her help or at her direction.

Having watched her on NBC and WTTW I concur. She does nuance her words carefully for the cameras. BUT, as the strike went into the 4th or 5th day she stated that she was here NOW to take control of the situation and seemed to indicate that she was going to make sure that it came to a halt, a sudden, jarring, halt. Cease and desist. If you can catch her on WTTW for that interview you will see what I mean.

Heck, when your opponent from the other side, Charters=Corporate=1% blushes and gushes over you and makes coo coo sounds and tells you how great you are and how reasonable you are and why aren't the thug Chicago Public school teachers getting the message, well you see the handwriting on the wall.

Randi Weingarten is NOT for teachers, not for public schools, not for the middle class, the working class, the poor.

Randi Weingarten is a complete sell out who wants to hang out and be part of the 1%.

We need to get her out.

Perhaps, if Karen is not up for replacing Rahm Emanuel, perhaps she would consider replacing Ms. Weingarten. She can't live off her family's claim to fame anymore. She has to go.

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