AFT group develops lessons on ’63 ‘Jobs and Freedom’ march

by Michael Hirsch


The massive 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom represented the high-water mark of the civil rights movement.

The rally was the culmination of decades of organizing and a spur to all the new social movements that followed. It showed ordinary people making history.

Though not all its aims were met — domestic workers and farm workers, who are largely people of color, are

Bayard Rustin (left) and

Bayard Rustin (left) outside the march headquarters in NYC

still not protected by federal law — Congress, in the years that followed, began to address racial discrimination in jobs, voting, housing and public accommodations.

Telling the story of that epochal march to public school students is a project of the Albert Shanker Institute, a think tank supported by the American Federation of Teachers, which is creating a set of lesson plans on the occasion of the march’s 50th anniversary.

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Union Reactions to Obama Re-election

Statement by AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka

Tonight, working families across the country celebrate the re-election of President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden – and breathe a sigh of relief that our country will move forward on the path of sanity and shared prosperity. Nothing about the last four years has been easy, from the Great Recession to Hurricane Sandy, from unrelenting partisan obstruction by Republicans to the greatest onslaught of negative ads ever unleashed against an American president.

Throughout the tumult, President Obama and Vice President Biden have been steadfast allies of working men and women and the values we cherish, focused on repairing the economy, rebuilding the ladder to the middle class and investing in our shared future. That’s why workers and their unions made an historic effort on their behalf, bringing home the vote for the President from Nevada to Ohio, from Wisconsin to Pennsylvania.

With “Osama dead and GM alive” and the economy beginning to pick up steam, we are ready to work together with the President and all willing parties to win greater equality and economic opportunity for all – starting with ending the Bush tax cuts for the rich and opposing any cuts to Social Security, Medicare, or Medicaid benefits.

Below are statements from the AFT, UFCW,UAW AFGE , UFW, SEIU, IBEW, and IAM
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The Chicago Teacher’s Strike and the Struggle for a New Unionism

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.

Bill Fletcher, Jr.

One of the most striking features of the Chicago teacher’s strike was the level of community support for the teachers. Contrary to public expectations, the strike turned into a social mobilization around education rather than a battle for the special interests of teachers. This feature did not come out of nowhere, but actually reflected an on-going effort to shift the direction of labor unionism in America, and in this case, labor unionism among teachers.

As successful as teacher organizing has been over the last fifty years, there has been an increasing gap between teachers and communities.  This came to catastrophic proportions in the disastrous 1968 New York City Teachers strike, which pitted African American and Puerto Rican community-based organizations against the largely white United Federation of Teachers (affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers) over the issue of community control of schools. While the teacher’s unions became increasingly successful in winning a better living standard for their members, they frequently became a source of resentment for many parents and community-based organizations who no longer saw the unions as being at the vanguard of the struggle for genuine education reform.

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Waiting for Superman?

By Duane Campbell

Waiting for Superman is an emotional film that follows five public school students who compete in lotteries to attend public charter schools. This film was made by the producer of An Inconvenient Truth, Davis Guggenheim. Waiting for Superman has been screened at a variety of film festivals, including Sundance, and was released on  September 24, 2010.

Rethinking Schools editor Stan Karp wrote this after viewing the film:

“The message of the film is that public schools are failing because of bad teachers and their unions. The film’s “solution,” to the minimal extent it suggests one, is to replace them with “great” charter schools and teachers who have less power over their schools and classrooms.

This message is not just wrong. In the current political climate, it’s toxic.”

This film tells a moving story about  problems and injustice in public schools  but it blames the problems of schools on teachers unions.  Why is that ?

Waiting for Superman says  several important things about the challenges of the public education system.  However, the central  message—”charters are good” and “teachers unions are bad”—oversimplifies complicated issues and promotes a particular corporate view of school reform.  This is the viewpoint promoted by the Bill Gates Foundation, the Broad Foundation, by Michele Rhee and Joel Klien among others.

Are charters superior to public schools?

First,  you need to understand what are charter schools? They are  usually public schools using public money  but without the direct over sight of school districts, school administrations and  school boards.  They often do not allow teachers to have a union and they usually do not have a union contract.  Charters are established by state laws and promoted by federal legislation including No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. Continue reading

AFT convention adopts peace resolutions

US Labor Against the War

The recently concluded national convention of the American Federation of Teachers saw two significant breakthroughs on the antiwar front.

Delegates adopted a resolution that puts the giant teacher union on new ground in opposition to the war and occupation of Afghanistan, opposing any further escalation and calling for “rapid, orderly withdrawal of all armed forces and military contractors, to begin immediately.”

In a separate but related action, AFT referred to its Executive Council a “special order” resolution on Iraqi Labor Rights that was introduced too late to go through the normal resolution process.  It was adopted unanimously at a meeting of the council that took place immediately following the convention.

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McCain attacks teachers’ unions

by Leo Casey

John McCain

In his speech last week to the national convention of the American Federation of Teachers, Barack Obama was clear and unequivocal in his opposition to using public money for vouchers for private schools. At that time, Obama made it clear that he supported public school choice — the ability of students and their families to chose which public school they would attend. In taking this stance, Obama reiterated what is a longstanding position of his — he had made the same point to the National Education Association convention earlier in July, and had explicitly disowned attempts by pro-voucher partisans to spin comments he made in a primary campaign interview into support for private school vouchers. Today, John McCain chose the occasion of a speech to the august civil rights organization, the NAACP, to take on Obama — and teacher unions — on this very point. Continue reading

Is NCLB dead? Should it be?

by Duane Campbell

Both major teachers’ unions, the National Educational Association and the American Federation of Teachers have made changing or amending the No Child Left Behind act of 2001 as a top priority in this election year.

Each of the major Democratic Party candidates call for substantive change – and this debate will be an important part of the Fall election. And the NEA has a major law suit against the Bush Administration for imposing the mandates of NCLB without providing the necessary funding.

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