No, this is not a post about hockey.
Earlier today, I posted the latest statement about the Newark teachers contract from a group of rebels within the union, the NEWCaucus. They are not happy:
After listening to and talking to fellow education workers, we have come to the conclusion that this contract was passed NOT because we believed that this contract is in the best interest of teachers and students, but because the membership did not have confidence that the NTU leadership has a plan, a will, or the ability to fight for something better. The membership reached this decision after witnessing attacks from the federal, state, and local governments for the past several years without any plan on the union’s part to fight back. The membership has seen statewide budget cuts, the closing of schools, hundreds of teachers’ robbed of their jobs and labeled EWP’s (Educators Without Placements), and a barrage of criticism from the media and political elites – all without a real response from their union. On top of this, NTU’s parent union, the American Federation of Teachers under Randi Weingarten, worked overtime to persuade, manipulate, and scare the membership into accepting this deal. AFT staffers called people at home, NTU leaders and AFT staffers made schools visits and stuffed teachers mailboxes with slick literature urging them to vote yes because we would get something while other districts were getting nothing, and because the alternative would be something worse. None of them proposed a plan to fight for something better!Now, I'm not about to pass judgment on whether this is true, because, obviously, I wasn't there. I can, however, tell you that it is common practice for unions to lobby their members to ratify agreements; that, in and of itself, really isn't an issue. And I have no reason to believe that Randi Weingarten or Joe Del Grosso or anyone else with AFT or the Newark Teachers Union actually thought they could do better in arbitration, which would have been the next step. So, when the NTU leadership says they thought this was the best contract they could get, I am prepared to take them at their word (that, however, doesn't mean I think it's a good contract).
What the NEWCaucus statement clearly indicates, however, is that there is a sizable group of teachers in Newark who are not happy about this deal. And the discontent hasn't only manifested itself in the published complaints of critics; it's evident in the vote itself:
- 1761 for.
- 1088 against.
- 1845 no votes (approximate).
More NTU members didn't vote than voted for the contract. That's disturbing, especially when considering that the NTU has basically told its members "trust us" when it comes to creating the evaluation system that needs to be designed to distribute the merit pay bonuses. Too many members of NTU clearly are not invested in the process. And if the members don't like the system that emerges, and they weren't feeling involved to begin with, well...
Now, the big topic in the world of teachers unions this year was the Chicago teachers strike. Jonah Edelman, willing toady of the wealthy, told his patrons that there was no way the Chicago Teachers Union would ever be able to comply with a new law that required 75% of their members to authorize a strike. Let's compare the NTU contract ratification results to the results of the CTU strike authorization vote:
- 23,780 for.
- 482 against.
- 2,240 no votes.
Say what you will about the strike or the subsequent deal: the CTU certainly had buy-in from its members. A strike authorization vote, however, is not the same as a contract vote; here are the results of the Chicago contract ratification vote:
- 16,428 for.
- 4,337 against.
- 5,737 no votes.
Let's compare the percentages:
The first thing that strikes me is that strike authorization votes are likely much more important to members than contract ratification votes. It's also likely that having a strike vote earlier colored the turnout for the contract vote in Chicago; I can't say whether it made it more or less likely that CTU members would participate in the second vote.
Still, the comparison is instructive. The CTU can confidently say that a majority of its members approved their contract deal; the NTU can't make that same claim.
A lot has been written about how the Chicago strike has affected the public's perception of teachers unions. The consensus is that the union fared much better than Mayor Rahm Enamuel; hell, even Fox News had to admit the parents of Chicago were on the CTU's side.
Much less has been written, however, about how the Chicago strike affected teachers' perception of teachers unions. Could it be that the hard-nosed stance of CTU president Karen Lewis energized her members? That, in a climate of relentless teacher bashing, the educators of Chicago were grateful to finally see one of their leaders stand up and say, "Enough"?
Teachers unions have come to a fork in the road. One route leads to Newark; the other to Chicago.
Which road do their members want them to take?
I'd watch it more if it wasn't on at the same time as basketball.