Thursday, March 17, 2016

Bernie & Teachers

What Do Teachers Unions Think of Bernie Sanders?
By Jim Vail
Special to

Presidential candidate Bernie Sanders was endorsed by CORE.

The leadership caucus of the Chicago Teachers Union debated and then decided to endorse Bernie Sanders for US President.

The Chicago Teachers Union has not yet made an endorsement for president.

Hilary Clinton just narrowly beat Sanders in the Illinois primary this week after Sanders showed ads with activist principal Troy LaRaviere and said how glad he was to not get Mayor Rahm Emanuel's endorsement.

While the mayor quietly endorsed Clinton, she smartly never mentioned Emanuel's name in public.

The Coalition of Rank and File Teachers or CORE - headed by CTU President Karen Lewis – made an interesting decision to endorse Sanders because its parent union the American Federation of Teachers AFT based in New York endorsed Clinton.

So while the CTU leadership party backs Sanders, who is running on a solid populist vote to demand the rich and powerful pay which runs in line with the fiery rhetoric of the teachers union, the AFT is sending Chicago teachers emails and other communication to back Clinton for president.

“Equal pay isn’t just a concept,” states AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Getting paid less than men for doing the same job is a reality most women face – and that’s not ok. Hillary Clinton has a plan to change that; that’s one reason we’re with her.”

When it comes to politics, the unions almost always line up with the democrats, whether they are neoliberal democrats like Mayor Emanuel, or machine democrats like Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan.

However, this presidential campaign has burst open a system that has been further widening the income gap as the 1 percent keep getting richer at everybody else’s expense.

Many see Republican front runner Donald Trump as not only an anti-immigrant, racist politician, but also a populist who opposes the free trade agreements that have devastated the working class when jobs move overseas.

Clinton, the democrat, approves of these trade agreements.  

Sanders, also playing the populist, has railed against the billionaire class and called for taxes on the rich, health care for all and free higher education.
But the unions, like businesses, want to back a winner.

The CTU endorsed Obama even though Obama’s educational policy entitled Race to the Top did even more harm to public education and teachers unions than his Republican predecessor George Bush. Obama fought for more charter schools and less union rights, and more onerous standardized tests.

Sanders said in a recent Chicago stop that he was happy to not get Emanuel’s endorsement because he closes schools and serves big-money interests.
But so did Obama who the AFT and CTU supported.

Sanders has picked up some union endorsements. Unfortunately, his star seems to be fading as money and politics continue to intertwine and dominate the Democrat party.

That could mean the sole populist left in the presidential race is the one everyone hates, yet more and more are voting for.


  1. Some jobs have certainly gone overseas -- a fact that populists like Trump and Sanders have used to get attention within the working class. However, many more jobs in this country were lost to speed-up (that is, doing the same work with fewer workers), outsourcing, or moving the jobs to the South. The populists -- both Democratic and Republican, play up the "off-shoring", which pits American working people against those in China or Mexico. But it is the capitalist class here which is destroying those jobs, and lowering the pay of those that remain. We need to make that point clear, because Trump is pulling a section of the working class down a dangerous path -- trying to channel the outrage many working class white people feel at the decline in their living standards against immigrants. It's a diversion -- they want to divide the working class in order to maintain their rule. And it has the potential to become very ugly.

  2. A member at my school noted that Sanders seems either confused or ambiguous on education politics. Jim, you pointed this out in a post last year. My colleague said Sanders said something about supported "public charter schools", where he appeared to be against for-profit charters. (This was in Ohio, where there have been a lot of scandals around for-profit charters). Sanders also backed ESSA, and basically every other Democratic Party initiative at the national level, though he has not been outspoken on education.