Defend Public Education

SAVE OUR UNION! SAVE OUR SCHOOLS! Vote Defend Public Education/Teacher Pride Slate for AFT Delegates

Posted in Uncategorized by Nicole Conaway on January 21, 2010

Vote Defend Public Education/Teacher Pride Slate for AFT Delegates
Attend the Union Meeting February 11 to Recall Keith Johnson

• Teachers Don’t Work for TIPs! Join the Lawsuit Against the Forced Loan
• Unite With Students, Parents and the Community to Defend Public Education
• Our Children are Not for Sale
• No More Charters
• Save Dr. King’s Vision for America in Detroit

Elect a New Leadership to Save Our Union
Our union took a big step forward at the January union meeting. Keith Johnson and the Executive Board tried to subvert our Constitution and By-laws, ignore the democratic will of the members and dismiss the fight of the membership and our lawyers to void the illegal contract provisions that are costing us millions of dollars of lost wages.
But the hundreds of members who attended the meeting, tired of being lied to, bullied and dismissed, asserted the will of the majority. We moved Keith out of the way and passed key motions endorsing the legal action to void the TIP clause in our contract; to hold Johnson’s recall hearing at the next union meeting, and to relieve Keith of his duties as union President pending the outcome of the recall vote.
Predictably, Johnson is continuing his policy of ignoring our votes, our will and our interests and pretending that he speaks for the union, when he only speaks for Rob Bobb, Jennifer Granholm and other politicians who share Johnson’s arrogant disregard for democracy and the educational needs of our students.
Our Bylaws state in Article IX, Section 1(a), Duties of Executive Board, “The Executive Board shall initiate policy…subject to the will of the members.” The Executive Board has no authority to declare whether or not the recall charges are “sufficient.” We, the membership, will make that determination at the February 11 membership meeting. If Johnson and his supporters think the charges are “insufficient” then they should vote “no” on the recall. If two-thirds of the membership voting at the meeting votes to recall Johnson, he will be recalled, as our Constitution provides (Article VIII, Section 1(b) “Two-thirds of those present and voting at the meeting shall be required to recall the officer”).
Johnson cannot win in the long run because we have a new leadership in our union capable of representing our interests and determined to defend our dignity, our union and public education. This new leadership is pursuing the legal actions needed to get rid of TIP and void our contract. We will, following our Constitution and By-laws, ask the next membership meeting to recall Johnson. And we will ask the members of our union to elect our slate of candidates to be AFT Convention delegates.
Defeating the Johnson slate in the upcoming delegate elections will send a message to the MFT and the AFT leadership that they cannot continue propping up Johnson, knowing how discredited he is, without jeopardizing their own authority and futures. Without their support Johnson will fall. Tied to him, they will all go down together. Too many Michigan teachers and AFT members across the nation oppose the direction our unions are heading in and are ready for a change.
Our fight in Detroit to defend the most basic principles of our union– defense of public education, respect for teachers and students, striving to end, not deepen separate and unequal education, democratic decision-making, accountable, honest union leaders – will not only have support across the country; it will inspire similar struggles elsewhere. We can win so long as we proceed with determination, continue to be completely open with and accountable to our fellow members, and are resolute in our will to lead.

Teachers Don’t Work for TIPs! Void the TIP Program
The TIP program, insultingly and truthfully named the Termination Incentive Plan, illegally gives forced loans of $10,000, interest-free and unsecured, removed at $250 per check from our next forty paychecks, to pay for Rob Bobb’s high-priced consultants and charter school companies.
Teachers are signing Wage and Hour claims to get our money back, and we have filed a class action suit to get an injunction to stop Bobb from withholding any more of our wages.
Our strategy of seeking to get TIP invalidated and struck from our contract is the best way to defeat the whole terrible agreement we were lied into accepting. Although the TIP forced loan is the highest-profile attack, the Priority Schools clause is an even greater danger to our union over the longer run. This clause allows an unlimited number of “priority” schools to be run as charter schools, with teachers being treated as “at-will” employees, on one-year contracts, which may be terminated by the principal at the end of each year. This clause would undermine the foundation of our union—protection from principals’ favoritism and discrimination. The Priority Schools plan is a plan to further degrade and dismantle our public school system and replace it with private charter schools.
If we get the TIP provision voided, Bobb will almost certainly declare the whole contract open to renegotiation since the wage package is such an important part of the agreement. We will be in a position to renegotiate the whole agreement from a position of great strength.

Johnson has betrayed the interests of teachers and the fundamental principles of our union
Johnson is pretending that the recall drive is strictly personal, that some people just don’t like him. The truth is that the fight to remove him as President is strictly political. Johnson is incapable of representing our interests because he won’t stand up to Arne Duncan and his privatization/ charterization scheme for public education.
The Duncan policy used to be only a Republican plan, but now both Republicans and Democrats embrace it. Johnson won’t oppose Duncan’s ideology, so he is forced into the position of endorsing it. Since the Duncan plan is thoroughly unpopular, Duncan needs to rush it through with as little examination, explanation and discussion as possible. Those are the methods Johnson has had to adopt in order to get our union to sign on to the plan.
Johnson allowed Rob Bobb to publicly insult, demean and degrade teachers daily, providing no defense to Bobb’s teacher-bashing attacks. Never have we been so vilified, blamed for every problem the District faces, and viciously scapegoated in the media. Johnson demobilized us, and gave Bobb free reign to demoralize and demonize us. Then Johnson slammed us himself, using Bobb’s threats of bankruptcy and layoffs against us in order to get this horrible contract passed.
Johnson has ignored and abrogated union democracy from the Cobo Hall meeting forward, refusing to allow membership votes, usurping the power of the Election Committee, and using that stolen power to write a misleading contract ratification ballot. Johnson misled the Executive Board on the content and the character of the contract. He rejected the Election Committee’s own findings of irregularities in the ratification election.

March on Lansing to Defend Public Education and to Stop the Deepening of Separate and Unequal Schools
Jennifer Granholm, like Johnson and Bobb, has overreached her authority. Desperate to get Michigan in line behind Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s Reach for the Top scheme, Granholm has demanded that Districts tie teacher evaluations and pay to student progress assessments and standardized test scores. She is asking the legislature to give Bobb dictatorial power over Detroit even though the people of Detroit clearly oppose this policy. She is already facing opposition.
A number of school districts in Oakland County, including Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Novi, Lake Orion, Walled Lake and South Lyon have voted not to participate in Michigan’s Race to the Top application. The Michigan Education Association is also urging its locals not to sign on to the application, which no one can even review; only a summary is available. The districts want to protect the integrity of public education and the capacity of their teachers to act as teachers, not as test-preparation robots. Last Thursday, busloads of union members from Detroit traveled to Lansing to oppose Granholm’s policies.
Granholm is relying on the desperation of poor, majority-black urban districts and poor rural districts to get them to sign on to the terrible conditions Duncan is imposing on them in order to receive the money. It is time for us to let Granholm know that cynical disregard for poor children’s needs and rights, and open displays of prejudice and bias against black and Latina/o students will not fly in Michigan. Our students deserve the same opportunities to learn and to be creative and our teachers deserve the same respect as those in the suburbs.
Detroit teachers must lead a march in Lansing against Granholm’s attempt to give Bobb dictatorial control over our schools, and the cynicism, racism and anti-poor and anti-working-class policies that are embedded in Reach for the Top. The DFT has the power to force President Obama to intercede and to give Detroit the money we deserve to save our schools and to provide black, Latina/o and poor, working-class and middle-class students of all races with equal educational opportunities.
Leading the Michigan fight to Stop Reach for the Top gives us an opportunity to unite with the suburbs, to break down the division between city, suburbs and rural communities. All the divide-and-conquer schemes that have reinforced separate and unequal, segregated education can finally be broken through, because every school district is facing deep cuts and continuous attacks. We have a real opportunity to move toward an integrated, Metro Detroit-wide school district that can solve the crisis of education for Detroit students, if we use our power to win real gains for every district in the state.

Vote The Defend Public Education/Teacher Pride Slate for AFT Convention Delegates
A fight is brewing at the national AFT union convention this summer to overturn AFT President Randi Weingarten’s policy of compliance with Arne Duncan’s privatization/charterization plan, and replace it instead with a strategy of fighting to defend public education, and demanding equality and integration in education as envisioned by Brown v Board of Education.
President Weingarten is intent on pushing through a teacher evaluation plan that ties teachers’ assessments to student test scores, and expedites teacher firings for “ineffectiveness” or misconduct. Weingarten is attempting to jettison one hundred fifty years of teacher tenure law in her zeal to collaborate with the Duncan plan. Weingarten named Detroit as one of the districts that have a trusting and respectful labor-management relationship! This deliberate misrepresentation must not go unanswered. We need our union to represent our interests, independently of our employers or the Democrats.
The question of AFT/NEA merger will also be a central issue debated at this summer’s convention. The NEA is on record opposing Reach for the Top. We need to send a Detroit delegation to the convention that is bold enough to use the NEA’s correct position on Reach for the Top to maximize gains for our students and the future of our local. We must place our union back on the principles that made us such a strong force for progress and equality. If elected, we will see that this occurs.
What happens at this summer’s Convention will determine everything, including whether we have a union that represents our interests and whether public education survives as more than the worst alternative catch-all for the poorest students. Teachers from Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and other big cities will be there. They are fighting back, and they face the same problems that we have in Detroit. They need our leadership to win. It is urgent, therefore, that we organize a slate of candidates for this election.
January 17, 2010

Vote No Committee, Civil Rights Now, Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, Integration and Immigrant Rights & Fight for Equality By Any Means Necessary/Equal Opportunity Now (BAMN/EON)


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