Union fissures in negotiations

In Washington DC, the current union negotiation with the district is showing cracks within the union itself:

Contract talks between the District government and the Washington Teachers’ Union, now in their 18th month and under a mediator, are escalating tensions within the union’s leadership.

In meetings and on teacher blogs, WTU President George Parker has come under increasingly bitter criticism for his leadership in the labor dispute, which pits the union against Chancellor Michelle A. Rhee in what is widely regarded as a nationally significant battle over how to improve public schools.

This is not confined to some wayward dissidents: it includes the union’s number 2 official. Nor is this the only example.

In Denver last summer, the DCTA and DPS dispute – which included a no-confidence vote for the popular superintendent (nee Senator) Michael Bennet and threats of a strike —  saw the rise of Denver Teachers for Change, a splinter group, pro-union and unhappy with the tone of the negotiations. (In Denver, the contract eventually passed with over 77% of the membership voting for essentially the DPS  position.)

This, then, is not the usual pro-union v anti-union camps setting up the expected positions.  These factions are all pro-union. The question is if the unions are correctly representing their membership, and increasingly (particularly as the Democratic party shifts its position) if they are on the train of education reform, behind it, or standing in the tracks.

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