Wednesday, September 19, 2012

An Open Conversation, Even in Chicago, about Union Leadership?

Listening to coverage of the now-concluded teachers' strike in Chicago on NPR on my way back to the 5 boroughs from the hinterlands yesterday, one thing really struck me in how the Chicago teachers discussed the CTU: the openness with which CTU members discussed Karen Lewis, President of the CTU.  There is far from a universal opinion on how Lewis has handled the breakdown in contract negotiations and the strike, even though the CTU delegates have voted to approve the framework for a new contract and end the strike effective today.

Members of the CTU frankly discussed Lewis's leadership in this time of what must be called a crisis.  Several bluntly questioned her ability to lead following the drastic measure of a teachers' strike.  Others called her too confrontational, while yet others defended her as tough yet pragmatic.  This will clearly be a discussion in the CTU for the coming days, but that's just the point: it will, in fact, be a discussion.

I'll be honest here and say that I'm not as well-informed about UFT leadership as I'd like to be, but I cannot even imagine our local NPR affiliate covering a candid conversation about said leadership, let alone most rank-and-file UFTers having it in a public forum.  God knows there is plenty of grassroots opposition to Mulgrew and Unity, but I only know that from being involved with the teacher blogging community.  If you paid attention to the mainstream media, I think, you'd get the impression that the UFT is a monolith in lockstep march with Mulgrew, and that's far from the truth.

I wouldn't want to be in the CTU's shoes.  They're going to be fighting a public relations battle over the strike, hammering out the dirty details of the new contract, and, you know, trying to educate the children, too.  Yet I do envy their ability to have a spirited, fair, and public conversation about their leadership--even a leadership that, to me, seems quite a bit tougher than what we have here.
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