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NEA RA continues the con game policies of its very very well-paid leadership...'All That is Pretense Dissolves into Delusions: The NEA Representative Assembly 2017'...

California delegates to the NEA RA in July 2017. The 'Representative Assembly' (RA) of the National Education Association (NEA) met during the first week of July 2017, over the Fourth of July as usual. Thousands of elected delegates from across the USA and territories were there, according to the NEA "slightly over 8,000 delegates were in attendance." It was the first major meeting representing NEA locals from all over the USA since the election of Donald Trump as President over the NEA-endorsed candidate, Hillary Clinton (who spoke to the RA in July 2016).

The pretense? That the US is a democracy, when the initial slavers’ Constitution was written to make sure it would never be more than a capitalist republic and an aggressive empire. Second pretense? That the National Education Association is a union. It’s not what most people think of as a union: a collective of people organized because they have contradictory interests with employers.

Rather, the NEA is a dues collection machine that serves the interests of thousands of people in various offices, and especially those at the top, who sell the pacified, stupefied, labor of the members (and in this case the public and students) in exchange for dues income. That allows those at the very top to live extraordinarily well.

The process--how is this done? How to manufacture voluntary servitude? Founded in 1857, NEA forged a hierarchy that, like most unions, runs parallel to that of their employers--but different in that NEA has, at the top, term limits and affirmative action guidelines which serve to create a layer of more effective enemies of the majority. The hierarchy, now seeded through almost 3 million members, trains and vets thousands of local leaders, hundreds at the national level — all under the guidance of staff, who enjoy excessive pay and benefits. Staffers have a profound stake in seeing that the NEA’s $400 million bank account is not threatened.

Most of the staff, and all of the top national elected leaders, are manipulative parasites who artfully play a bait-and switch con that runs like this: “We a union! Join us! Participate!” As the initially unwitting, presumably honest, school worker moves in the hierarchy: “No we’re not a union — but you’re in too deep and have too much to lose to blow the whistle.”

Assuredly, most people lose in what is also this Ponzi-pyramid scheme. They’re used, tossed aside while the most selfishly ambitious opportunists move on to the top — and all that money, fine clothes, counterfeit prestige, drivers, presidential suites, per diems, crowd-worship, and importantly, no time in the classroom.

The key con is to prevent the rise of a mass, class conscious, integrated movement that would seek to win control of the processes and products of workplaces and endanger the ideological and material core of the social system itself.

Such a movement would make NEA’s hierarchy, and top officials, irrelevant. The bridge to delusions on one hand, and cynical manipulation on the other, is fashioned by the two key realities of any capitalist empire: money and the military. People are bought off, bribed by imperialist gains, and mindfully or not, they hide behind the brutality of relentless warfare: looting. Bribed? Teachers and other school workers are among the highest paid workers (they are not professionals--that’s another ruse) in the US now. Most of them have some form of tenure process, job protections in “just cause” clauses, health benefits and pensions. The delusions? That’s to come. In 2016, National Education Association president, Lily Garcia, took in a total of $512,504 from the fake union. Not bad, and well up from the approximately $466,000 her predecessor, Dennis Van Roekel made, but not nearly the $686,949 the bulbous empty suit and former NEA president Reg Weaver made in his last year in office.

NEA Vice President, Becky Pringle, made $434,738 in total.

Pringle may be unhappy as the Secretary-Treasurer Princess (sic) Moss took home slightly more at $436,423. The trio earned their keep at the NEA’s annual Representative Assembly (RA) that concluded on July 5th in Boston.

Aided by hundreds of staff and that national budget of nearly $400 million, they protected capital and empire from the 2,968,722 members of NEA, the largest union in the USA, by far. These union members are centripetally positioned in the struggle for knowledge as well as material life for themselves and their 50.5 million students in America’s schools.

Garcia and her underlings faced some serious problems at the RA in 2017. During the presidential cycle last year, they rigged NEA’s internal processes for an early endorsement of Wall Street darling and war criminal Hillary Clinton. It’s unclear whether most NEA members would have preferred the man who later came out as Clinton’s fishhook, Bernie Sanders (many, many NEA members are Republicans) but there can be no doubt a sizeable, and angry, minority did. Wikileaks revealed Garcia’s dishonest project as it was in progress. NEA and the American Federation of Teaches, combined, threw an estimated $40 million into the failed Clinton candidacy.

Then, Garcia backed the losing candidate for the chair of the Democratic National Committee.

Almost simultaneously, the DNC, in a recent class action lawsuit, swore under oath, that "we are not obligated to run a fair and impartial primary.”

After the halcyon days of Obama, Rahm Emanuel (now destroying the Chicago Public Schools and re-cementing the school-to-war pipeline with new CPS graduation requirements) and Arne Duncan (fondly, the Race to the Top--RATT), when NEA top officials cheered the further segregation of educational institutions, more regimented curricula, more high stakes exams, more charter schools, and localized attacks on school worker pay and pensions (and the complete obliteration of the Detroit Public Schools); the election of the sociopathic narcissist Donald Trump and the appointment of barely literate Betsy Devos to lead the Department of Education, meant NEA’s Quisling bosses had a lot to answer for.

Some NEA staff threatened to picket the assembly, feeling underappreciated. Rigging, losing, exposed—not a good year for highly paid NEA bosses. And, they had their usual, commonplace in American unions, undertaking to promote:

• Nationalism of all kinds,

• Ethnic separation and identity politics,

• Racism, no mention of a fully segregated capitalist school system,

• Indifference to perpetual imperialist war--never mentioned,

• Calculated ignorance of the obvious reality of class warfare, in schools and out, • Worker disunity, • Back to the voting booth for Democrats when the charge that the government is an armed weapon and executive committee of the rich is quite apparent (undeclared wars, bailouts, and no workers’ vote counts at the key source of worker power—work),

• Cowardice, herding the members into a pretense of action that is no action at all,

• A demagogic slogan, “Defend Public Education,” which has never been public but always segregated in service to capital and imperialism in the main,

• All under the counterfeit slogans, “Resist” and “Social Justice,” which mean in essence “vote Democratic,” for war and exploitation. It all worked in Boston this year.

NEA caucuses opened the RA with a boisterous singing of the vile jingoist ditty, “God Bless America,” and the “National Anthem” on the convention floor, followed by a salute to the flag--pledging allegiance, “under God.” Nobody howled, “people make gods--gods don’t make people--it’s a life and death reality!”

American flags everywhere. Red-white-and-blue decorates the walls. Later, in closing caucus sessions, they sang, “Solidarity Forever.” Go figure. No one in top leadership had ever led a strike, nor even negotiated a contract in a bargaining state (Garcia is from Utah). Most, certainly, had never heard of the song’s author, Ralph Chapin, and his Industrial Workers of the World (IWW or Wobblies) roots. And, if confronted with the beginning words of the IWW preamble, “The working class and the employing class have nothing in common,” the daily lives of the entire room prove they have nothing in common with the Wobblies or Chapin.

President Garcia’s con game began months ago.

Her effort: ignore the critics of her corruption, the exposure of her shockingly high pay, and dangle a false flag issue--devilish Charter Schools--and their personifications--Donald Trump and Devos--and watch the rubes take the bait. Oh for the Dems!!

The delegates leaped for it.

While there was some commotion around this New Business Item (NBI)

“#22--Direct the PAC Council to determine a workable method for canvassing membership regarding their preference for President and publicizing the results prior to the recommendation by the PAC council for President of the U.S. in 2020,”

The delegates’ votes were deliberately miscounted and the NBI, somewhat embarrassing to the leadership, was shuffled off to a committee, where it will languish, be rewritten, and made quite safe. The delegates addressed 158 other NBI’s, for the most part one as meaningless as the next. For example, one called for a letter to be written to the US Post Office urging that it offer check-cashing services.

It’s the usual shell game that keeps the highly educated delegates busy, wears them out, under a “let’s pretend this is real,” umbrella that nearly all of them enjoy. They’re committed. To bring forward an NBI, petition signatures must be gathered, usually more than the prescribed number. So, let’s say 100 delegates sign for each NBI, meaning there are about 1,590 people in the assembly who have very particular stake in “their” NBI, leading delegates to want to demand that each item be treated equally, when they are not equal, leading people to capitalist democracy’s favorite question: What about ME?--rather than US?

Only one NBI, #37, addressed war, but not the current promise of perpetual wars, or the seven wars Hillary Clinton, Samantha Power, and Susan Rice--with Obama-- started (yes, I do know about G.W. Bush). Those wars, of course, ruin NEA members’ students’ lives, as well as school worker livelihood. Instead, that NBI complained of the 1893 US invasion of Hawaii and urged the restoration of the past indigenous monarchy--a low in identity politics. #42 initially just demanded “universal health care for all,” but it became a paragraph urging the NEA to build an electoral campaign for universal health care. Given that the Democratic National Committee recently voted to oppose that plan, and given the historical power the Obama administration offered to the pharmaceutical and insurance industries in creating the fraud that is Obamacare, neither the legislative campaign nor the urge to “write letters and tweet,” will go far--but it will occupy time that might be spent conspiring for a mass school worker strike at fall openings--matched by freedom schools. #52--Initially demanded Devos resign. Oh for the good days of Arne Duncan! It became “If the questions asked to the Secretary of Education by the president of the NEA are not answered by 9/1/17 the NEA will request the resignation of Betsy Devos as Secretary of Education should she fail to respond to the satisfaction of the NEA governance regarding the questions posed by President Eskelsen-Garcia in her letter.”

Devos, however, has signaled that her early devotion to local control of school is now nearly null and void. She plans to continue and extend the federal intrusions continued by Obama, eventually becoming the Every Student Succeeds Act. "What this signals is that U.S.D.E. will continue to play the role they've always played in the years ahead." (NYTimes, July 8, 2017) NEA has a peculiar internal addition to Roberts’ Rules of Order of its own, “Object to Consideration.”

That motion means an NBI should be killed, not debated, as it might upset the delegates.

That’s the fate of #65 which initially said, in sum, “Impeach Trump,” but it became, “The NEA will support both the efforts in the Department of Justice and the U.S. Congress to constrain Donald Trump's abuses of power and will participate in the ongoing actions of the movement of Resistance to Trump to defeat Trump's abuses through the direct mobilization and action of the American people.

“The NEA defends the independence and integrity of the ongoing investigations of Donald Trump, the Trump campaign, and the Trump presidency. The NEA also supports the efforts to begin the process of impeaching Donald Trump in the U.S. House of Representatives that could lead to his trial before the U.S. Senate.”

#65 went into the “Object to Consideration” vapors.

#78 was watered down a bit and became, “Using existing research and available resources, the NEA shall do the following:

1. Publish an article in NEA Today on the racist origins of standardized testing.

2. Make policy recommendations on assessment.

3. Communicate findings, policy recommendations, and examples of language in ESSA plans that locals, districts, and states have agreed upon that exemplify educationally just practices for assessment through existing communications channels.”

What exactly shall be done about high-stakes exams, like a mass refusal to proctor them? Not a chance, and no chance that the historical racist origins of the exams have their base in class and empires’ wars, the “Why?” of the things that is never asked. #79: “The NEA shall provide direct organizing support to locals and state affiliates who form or expand Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS), community tables, and coalitions to defeat any voucher plan and organize for the world class public schools all of our students deserve. NEA will provide organizing support up to $125,000.”

AROS is one of many front groups the NEA funds or likes, like Save Our Schools, and the Badass (that would be Bullshit) Association of Teachers, and the Network for Public Education, all of them wanting to vote their way out of capitalism in rapid decay and an imperial crisis. Silly, but useful to elites. NEA officials banned independent libertarian journalist, Mike Antonucci of the Education Intelligence Agency, who had covered RAs for 19 consecutive years. A motion which would have spoken to this tight censorship simply vanished: “New H. The Role of the Press in a Democracy---“The National Education Association believes that a strong and independent press is vital for a fully functioning democracy. Limits on access to information, threats to individual journalists or news outlets, and coercion by elected officials or businesses cannot be tolerated. The Association also believes that open information laws must be vigorously enforced and that First Amendment rights of the press must be zealously protected.” This disappeared.

Delegates do work hard. They’re teachers, after all: dutiful. Obedient. Polite. They rise early, meet in state caucuses, sit and ponder resolutions for hours, wait in voting lines. Over time, many wind up on the floor, stretched out, usually awake.

Delegates were typically good students themselves. They then become fountains of illusions, utterly mis-educated in colleges of education where substantive knowledge is rarely taken on. They also have time to party, visit local sites like the New England Aquarium, eat well, delight in the Boston Freedom Trail, and some do a bit of philandering. Delegates are offered the opportunity to visit dozens of commercial, and non-commercial booths inside convention centers, the biggest typically run by corporate publishing companies. This year, booths were also offered by Creation-Scientists and Ex-Gay educators, which drew motions to ban them in the future. For California delegates, not much NEA-supplied money was left over due to travel costs, but for most, if they cut a few corners, they can save as much as $500 and extend vacations. Sydnee Chaffee, was chosen “Teacher of the Year.” She’s from Boston’s elite Codman Charter School which Facebook’s boss Zuckerberg calls an “Inspiration.” It’s an interesting health-science school and Chaffee is something of a media magnet--and for this convention, a home towner. (http://www.codmanacademy.org/apps/news/show_news.jsp?REC_ID=452698&id=15)

The delegates cheered and applauded for LaVar Burton, this year’s “NEA Friend of Education,” poised so for incomprehensible reasons. This Friend of Education played Kunte Kinte in “Roots,” at ten, decades ago, and is now involved in kids’ TV programs. Burton, a lapsed seminarian, not long ago appeared with Oprah Winfrey, praising his Catholic private school, education (here: https://youtu.be/NNZoisExRW4)

Top officers Garcia, Pringle, and Moss all were re-elected with more than 90% of the vote. A “usual suspects” contingent from By Any Means Necessary, a front for the “Revolutionary Workers’ League,” lost decisively, again. BAMN, at least, persists. The big dangle--the evils of Charter Schools--took up most of the discussion. Delegates revised earlier NEA positions on Charters, marking off for-profit, semi-private charters from public charters (NEA organizes in some charters--it’s all about the money after all). The full NEA position on Charters is already in Substance News at http://www.substancenews.net/articles.php?page=6777§ion=Article

One mighty proud member of the NEA Charter Task Force, co-chaired by Garcia and V.P Pringle, that, for the most part, wrote the charter position titled a short congratulatory essay, “NEA makes STRONG, patriotic statement on charters.” He’s a prof who thinks the public really is beginning to understand public schooling. And a member of BATS-- bullshit or badass?

In the absence of a radical critique of capitalist schooling in the empire, a good deal of opposition to charters is merely opportunistic wrangling about salaries--not segregation, nor the form and substance of education. Those who seek an extension for that critique, “Why Have School?” see here: https://www.counterpunch.org/2016/08/16/why-have-school-blood-and-money-versus-reason/

What is to become of the school workers’ Devil’s bargain of voluntary servitude for a modicum of security?

The security is eroding fast--as it did for the industrial working class which made the same bargain but lost nearly everything in the period following the US’ ignominious flight from Vietnam in 1975.

The once proud and militant Detroit Federation of Teachers is in death throws. Nationwide, pensions, benefits tenure, and pay are all under bi-partisan attacks as the likes of Rahm Emanuel and Betsy Devos find common ground, work together.

Several cases which would eliminate the agency shop, forced dues collection, wind their way up to the Supreme Court which, in 2016, deadlocked on the matter in Frederichs vs the California Teachers Association. This time, with a new addition to the court, NEA will lose. While the union has projected relatively minor dues/member losses immediately, staff members I know guess that the losses could soon become 20% in states that now hold the agency shop--in part because of blunders like Garcia rigging elections, not listening to the members who are taught to use the union like a vending machine. It’s widely rumored among NEA staff and journalists that the large Las Vegas NEA affiliate is planning to disaffiliate, break the leash. NEA fights similar battles relentlessly, but it’s more than possible this will happen, and spark others. In a broader sense, the US empire is in desperate straits.

The military openly admits it has no grand strategy to counter fantasies about the Caliphate, a seventh century superstition that grew from the rejection of capital, empire, and Soviet/Chinese socialism, that is, capitalism with a purportedly benevolent party at the top.

With no grand strategy, like the most dangerous idea in history—human equality—the US has no strategy, just whack-a-mole tactics, chasing a variety of insurgencies around the world while, simultaneously, crow-hopping to what many people see may be World War III.

Industrial and finance capitalists, who with the military in tow, control most aspects of government, now do not buil--while the financiers simply loot. With no serious prosecutions, they’re at it again. The mild post-2008 Great Financial Crisis regulations are eliminated.

The supremacy of the US dollar is challenged by the Chinese yuan, and a military that is not exhausted by perpetual war.

There is a new Cold War. The Obama administration worked hard to expand the US nuclear might. Multiple crises are at hand.

It may no longer be possible to hide behind military ferocity and collect the imperial bribe, which can easily evaporate--ask the members of the United Auto Workers Union.

The core issue of our time is the reality of the promise of perpetual war and booming inequality met by the potential of a mass, class-conscious, internationalist revolutionary movement against fascism; for equality, justice, and retribution. The American counterfeit unions reject this solution. We should think otherwise, and act upon the thought. What defeats Quislings, the near enemies who must be overcome, backed by money and men with guns? First step: ideas! A unity of thought and action against empire and capital are the orders of the day-a real fight for real reforms tied to a long, long-term revolutionary action. Human Equality! Extension #1 Substance readers may wish to investigate what a first time NEA-RA delegate thinks and does. Here is an earnest young educator offering her ideas and experiences.

http://www.cta.org/Blog/2017/July/CTA-Guest-Blog.aspx

Extension #2; Delegates singing Ralph Chapin’s “Solidarity Forever” https://www.facebook.com/ann.katzburg/videos/10154826818669226/

Extension #3 Figures for the union salaries are from the Department of Labor, LM2 web site: https://www.dol.gov/olms/regs/compliance/rrlo/lmrda.htm Extension #4 RA proceedings are here--for how long? https://ra.nea.org/

Extension #5 on the “Slavers Constitution” here: https://jacobinmag.com/2017/07/founding-fathers-constitutional-convention

Extension #6: There is a very close relationship between US unions and American imperialism, going back to WWI. That is documented in dozens of sources. Most recently, Substance author, Kim Scipes wrote, “The AFL-CIO’s Secret War Against Developing Country Workers.” George Schmidt, Substance editor, long ago wrote the pamphlet, “The AFT and the CIA.” It is now online. Jack Scott, a Canadian Marxist, wrote the brilliant, “Yankee Unions Go Home.” NEA works hand in glove with the National Endowment for Democracy, a notorious CIA front. Former NEA presidents, grown rich, retire to Education International, another CIA front. The theory? American workers will do better if workers outside the empire do worse, rather like the founding idea of the American Federation of Labor—white male workers will do better if others are kept out.

Rich Gibson is an emeritus professor, San Diego State University. For a decade, he taught labor studies at Wayne State University in Detroit. With five others, he’s responsible for creating the largest local in the UAW, local 6000, state workers not in auto. He’s not proud of what it has become. He led illegal, yet victorious, teacher strikes in Michigan and worked for teacher unions in Florida. He is the former Director of Organizing for one of the largest federal employees’ unions. RG@richgibson.com



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