Interesting piece from The Real News Network with Professor Lois Weiner. In the end she calls for a one day national teacher strike across the US. She says we need to catch up with teacher unions in a large part of the world who see the necessity for militancy to save public education.
Below is the part of the interview conducted by Jaisal Noor concerning the US teacher unions:
NOOR: Now, Lois, one place you don't really hear about strikes is right here in the U.S. You know, of course, the last major strike that people will have heard of is the Chicago teachers strike back in the fall of 2012. But you've been a longtime critic of teachers unions on the left, saying they don't work with--they don't do enough social justice unionism, they don't work closely enough with community groups. And the same problems you described that are happening across the world with these emphases on testing is happening across the U.S. I've talked to dozens, maybe hundreds of teachers over the past several years, and they all share that common criticism of the public education system. And, also, there's hundreds of schools being closed across the U.S. What is your take or critique of teachers unions here? Why aren't they going on strike the same way we've seen teachers going on strike around the world?
WEINER: Well, the unions here are calcified. That's the best way for me to put it. They're calcified at the national level. They're mainly calcified at the state levels. There are two major unions, the National Education Association and the AFT, and they're bureaucratic and conservative in different ways. They're not--the problems are not identical, but the results are the same. And the result is that the unions are--number one, they are not democratic. To me that's a key issue. Another issue is that they're not militant, they don't mobilize the members. And the third issue is that if they often--their bargaining demands or the way they're looking at themselves is they're fighting for members' interests as defined very, very narrowly by what's allowed in union contracts.
And I will say that we're seeing changes that are not being picked up by the corporate media. For instance, the Portland--Portland is the largest city in Oregon. It has the largest teachers union in Oregon. They waged a campaign for a new contract that put class size first and was not about salary. It was about working conditions of teachers that affected the learning conditions of kids, having what's called in some places specials, you know, making sure that teachers who teach phys-ed and music and art have jobs, because if we don't have phys-ed and music and art teachers, we don't have phys-ed, music, or art.
NOOR: And you see a lot of these programs being cut around the country, because schools have--.
WEINER: They are. They are. They're cut all over the world. Education is being stripped down to its most watered-down vocationalized essence. And the teachers unions in the United States have been late to addressing that. And I think that a fundamental problem is that--which I explain in my new book, is that they don't see themselves as leaders of a movement, of a social movement to push back on these terrible changes being made to education.
But we are seeing some really promising changes, sparked in good part by Chicago, mainly by Chicago.
I think that part of this, part of what we should be looking at in the United States, based on what we're seeing going on globally, is to set out for teachers the idea of a one-day national strike supported by both the AFT and the NEA that would focus attention on what's happening to education nationally. I really think that we need to shift the emphasis from a purely local level to both the national and global.
NYS Taylor Law, a human rights violation, should not be a main part of this discussion except for the part banning strikes being repealed. If there is a national movement for action, do you think we will be a major part of it?