Wednesday, September 07, 2011

EIA’s Mike Antonucci’s take on what’s happening in Chicago

EIA's Mike Antonucci's take on what's happening in Chicago and elsewhere (a great line: "Marching in lockstep displays the greatest strength, unless you're heading for the cliff's edge."):

Tiny Cracks in the Great Wall. The Wisconsin protests were supposed to usher in a new age of union solidarity and activism, and to a certain extent they have. But in activating the rank-and-file, unions also seem to have activated previously apathetic and compliant members, staff and local officers. Motivations may vary, but it is highly irregular to find union constituencies publicly carving out independent stances.

Last week, the Northwest Allen County Education Association disaffiliated from the Indiana State Teachers Association and NEA by a vote of 111 to 17. The local will now operate independently, reducing its dues by roughly 75 percent. NACEA president Alan Bodenstein believes the move will increase membership, and therefore clout within the district. The ISTA called the decision "shortsighted."

Over in Chicago, teachers at three elementary schools decided to approve a proposal to add 90 minutes to the school day - supported by Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the school district, but opposed by the Chicago Teachers Union. CTU Vice-president Jesse Sharkey called the decision " old-style Chicago ward plantation politics."

The staff union of the Wisconsin Education Association Council has been remarkably quiet in the wake of mass layoffs. Now comes the first noises of blowback. It seems WEAC advertised a staff opening in Racine without first allowing qualified laid-off staffers a shot at the position. NEA's national staff union is advising NEA employees nationwide not to apply for any openings in Wisconsin until the situation is resolved.

While the teachers' unions can be expected to stand together in the face of external threats, the stakes are so high that there will be serious differences over the proper strategies to use. Marching in lockstep displays the greatest strength, unless you're heading for the cliff's edge. Don't be surprised to see segments of the union population veer off both left and right in the coming months.

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