At Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School in Massachusetts, teachers say a hostile administration is trying to crush their union.
In 1968, Paulo Freire, a famous Brazilian philosopher, authored the book Pedagogy of the Oppressed, a Marxist argument for using education to empower the downtrodden. In 2013, a charter school named in his honor was founded: the Paulo Freire Social Justice Charter School (PFSJCS), located in Chicopee, Massachusetts. Now, in a display of the universe’s sense of humor, teachers at PFSJCS say that the school’s leadership is engaging in union busting.
In March 2020, the school’s professional staff of about 26 people?—?mostly teachers, along with a few other employees such as guidance counselors?—?unionized with UAW Local 2322 in Massachusetts. Zack Novak, one of the teachers who helped lead the union drive, said that several years of experience working in unionized public schools had led him to expect certain standards of treatment that he didn’t see at PFSJCS. ?“At charter schools in general, the climate is much different. I noticed people being treated unfairly by the administration,” Novak said. ?“The only way to get ahead was if the powers that be liked you. That’s not an equitable environment for teaching staff.”
Novak sent out an email notifying everyone at the school that the staff had unionized in March of last year. The same day, he says, he was pulled into a meeting with administrators, which he interpreted as an assertion of their power. At the end of the school year, he said, he was offered a new contract to come back?—?but that contract was rescinded before the next school year began, for no apparent reason. He believes that his involvement in organizing the union was the motivating factor.
In July 2020, the school hired Gil Traverso as its new executive director, to replace a retiring predecessor. Since then, union members say, labor relations have been awful. According to Carol Huben, a PFSJCS teacher, the first ominous sign was ?“a really strong pattern of not responding to union communications.” Next, she said, teachers were warned or disciplined after posting innocuous pro-union messages in their Zoom backgrounds at bargaining meetings.
Then, Huben said, came the most serious blow to the union: a dozen teachers whose contracts were up last year were ordered to reapply for their own jobs?—?and none of them were rehired. The union said in a press release that ?“no explanation was offered for their non renewal of contracts.” Huben also said that management is warning newly hired teachers to beware of the union. The union has filed complaints over more than 20 incidents since Traverso’s hiring, teachers said.
Gil Traverso did not respond to requests for comment for this story.
Such aggressive hostility towards the union is puzzling for Novak, who points out that such high turnover among the teaching staff is correlated with worse learning outcomes for students. But he sees the administration’s anti-union behavior as a basic expression of pure power politics on the job. ?“People want to organize, and the bosses don’t want them to,” Novak said. ?“They enjoy disproportionate power over the workplace.”
On June 23, PFSJCS union members are planning an ?“informational picket” outside of the school, and the union plans to drum up public support in the community. Though similarly absurd situations have arisen before?—?in 2017, for instance, there was a union busting campaign at a charter school named for Cesar Chavez—the hypocrisy of the pressure they’re facing is not lost on the teachers.
“It certainly is quite ironic,” Huben said, ?“that the school that uses Paulo Freire’s name, who was a labor activist, is choosing to use his name to union bust.”
This blog originally appeared at In These Times on June 22, 2021. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Hamilton Nolan is a labor reporter for In These Times. He has spent the past decade writing about labor and politics for Gawker, Splinter, The Guardian, and elsewhere.
Working people across the United States have stepped up to help out our friends, neighbors and communities during these trying times. In our regular Service + Solidarity Spotlight series, we’ll showcase one of these stories every day. Here’s today’s story.
The San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council recently organized a rally in support of Jared Hutchins (CTA), a teacher and union organizer who was fired by High Tech High.
In late April, some 400 educators at the High Tech High charter school network filed for union recognition with the California Public Employment Relations Board as High Tech Education Collective (HTEC), becoming the newest members of the California Teachers Association family.
With 16 schools on four campuses and more than 6,000 K–12 students, High Tech High is the largest operator of charter schools in San Diego County.
A virtual rally on Zoom garnered nearly 50 supporters for Jared Hutchins. Hutchins said, “I fought and was fighting for teachers to have an equal voice at the table. It was because I was unapologetic about my purpose of bringing anti-racist practices into our schools.”
The California Teachers Association filed an unfair labor practice charge against the High Tech High charter school network for firing Hutchins, who has been helping to organize a union throughout the network.
This blog originally appeared at AFL-CIO on June 15, 2021. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Kenneth Quinnel is a senior writer at AFL-CIO.
With the Democrats’ failure to win an outright majority in the Senate and Republicans making surprising gains in the House, Joe Biden’s sweeping promises to expand American labor rights just got a lot harder to fulfill.
Proposals pushed by Democratic lawmakers to raise the federal minimum wage to $15, expand workers’ ability to form unions and rewrite years of U.S. law form the cornerstone of Biden’s labor agenda. But if Republican Mitch McConnell stays in charge of the Senate, it’s unlikely that any push for collective bargaining rights or wage hikes would advance even if Biden wins the presidency.
“I am concerned about it,” Randi Weingarten, president of the 1.7 million-member American Federation of Teachers, said in an interview.
Unions had high hopes for the election, spending $188 million backing Democratic candidates and voting for Biden in larger numbers than the general electorate did. They were also a major source of grassroots organizing power for the party.
Yet Democrats failed to win in many Senate battlegrounds this week, and both parties are still short of a majority in the chamber. Georgia is now the key to control of the Senate, with both of the state’s races appearing likely to head to runoffs in early January.
Despite the disappointing results, Weingarten and other union leaders say they’re not giving up. She says there will be “a real fight” to enact Democrats’ PRO Act in a GOP-controlled Senate, a bill that Biden has backed as a major priority of his administration that would vastly expand workers’ ability to form unions.
But passing that legislation and raising the federal minimum wage to $15 may be unachievable with GOP control of the Senate. House Democrats’ faced major headwinds from red-state members of their own caucus when pushing for the Raise the Wage Act, which the chamber passed July 18.
Enacting the most progressive reforms largely hinged “on taking over the Senate and either winning enough votes to make the filibuster unimportant or dealing with the filibuster,” Rep. Andy Levin (D-Mich.), who serves on the Health Education and Labor Committee, said.
A Biden administration could still get a lot done if it “puts the right people” in the Labor Department, Levin said, “but there’s no fundamental reform.”
Biden will also have to weigh how much political capital he wants to risk with the powerful business lobby — which has billed the Democrats’ proposals as potential job killers and warned that putting any more liability on businesses could stymie the economic recovery from the coronavirus.
Some in the business community pointed to 2009, when newly elected President Barack Obama fell silent on a key labor-backed bill, the Employee Free Choice Act, despite endorsing it in the 2008 campaign and calling it a top priority.
Even with a 60-vote Democratic Senate supermajority, the party couldn’t pass the bill, which would have allowed unions to represent workers based on the informal collection of signed authorization forms, known as card check, instead of an NLRB-supervised secret ballot election.
The labor movement will keep pushing for its agenda, despite the shaky odds of full Democratic control of Congress, said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka.
“We’ll figure out a way to get it done eventually,” Trumka said on a press call Thursday. “And we’ll have popular support. There are a number of legislative vehicles that we use; we will try everything we can.”
Weingarten said she is optimistic about Biden’s chances to find some bipartisanship in a divided Washington. “Given who Joe Biden is,” she said, “he uniquely will help demonstrate to these hard-core Republican senators and to the business community that long-term it’s in everyone’s interest to rebuild the middle class.“
Other labor leaders agreed that they don’t plan to tamp down their expectations of Biden’s labor agenda even if Republicans win control of the Senate, a result that won’t be known until January with the likely Georgia runoff elections.
“We are going to stay fiercely committed to demanding that the House, Senate and president take dramatic, bold action on curbing the pandemic and creating good jobs that people can feed their families on, and by tackling racial and inequality and the climate crisis,” Mary Kay Henry, international president of the 2 million-member Service Employees International Union, told POLITICO.
Major unions like SEIU organized canvassing drives and texting campaigns in swing states such as Michigan, Wisconsin and Nevada. Union members overall were more likely to support Biden than voters generally, with 57 percent of union households backing him compared to 51 percent of non-union households, according to The New York Times’ exit polling.
But labor leaders say President Donald Trump aided the GOP’s performance by giving working people a message — albeit a false one — that they wanted to hear: Covid-19 will end after Election Day.
“If you’re tired of COVID, and you’re fatigued by COVID, and you’re anxious to get back to your job and your work or your small business is teetering, you want to believe that,” Weingarten said.
“You can’t underestimate the social isolation that has happened in America, since the start of this terrible pandemic,” she said.
Other leaders blamed Democrats’ performance in congressional races on freshman lawmakers, who are usually the most vulnerable in their efforts to get reelected.
“Democrats can also always do a better job of talking about kitchen table economics,” said Trumka. “I tell them that every single time that I meet with them, but many of the losses that we saw on the House side, were in districts with first-time Democratic seats.”
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich said a Biden presidency could be the last chance for unions to secure an expansion of labor rights before restrictions on collective bargaining drown out their influence.
“As organized labor declines in numbers and percentage of the workforce, it has less political clout,” said Reich, who served under President Bill Clinton. “So it’s a death spiral.”
This blog originally appeared at Politico on November 6, 2020. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Eleanor Mueller is a legislative reporter for POLITICO Pro, covering policy passing through Congress. She also authors Day Ahead, POLITICO Pro’s daily newsletter rounding up Capitol Hill goings-on.
Powerful elites are willing to sacrifice the lives and futures of millions to feed their own profits. Teachers are fighting back.
Demands for students and educators to return to in-person schooling during the pandemic are coming from Democrats and Republicans, both claiming the return is necessary not just to provide high-quality education, but to save the economy and get parents back to work. The narrative consciously exploits the needs of parents who may not have healthcare and who rely on public schools to care for and educate their children while they work. It pits parents, students, teachers and community members against one another, using (or ignoring) scientific data to suit the political purpose of moneyed interests?—?the bipartisan project of destroying public schools.
When Education Secretary Betsy DeVos tweets that parents ?“need real options for education this fall” and #SchoolChoiceNow?—?without providing the equipment, conditions or funds needed to make schools safe?—?the real message is clear. The Right is using the push to reopen as a way to intensify the privatization and marketization of education, boost profits in the educational technology sector and erode trust in public schools.
In response, teachers’ labor activism?—?widespread and robust in recent years?—?continues to emerge. Teachers organizing on social media have campaigned for various scientific standards to trigger reopening; #14DaysNoNewCases, for example, demands that campuses only reopen after going two weeks without Covid-19 infections. The Demand Safe Schools Coalition wants class sizes limited to 10 to 15 students, ventilation that meets guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, clean and socially distant school transportation, supplies of personal protective equipment and ample Covid-19 testing. Activists in dozens of cities rallied August 3 for these and other demands, resisting hasty, underfunded and unsafe reopenings that impose harm, especially on low-income students of color. The campaign #OnlyWhenItsSafe advocates reopening only if it is ?“equitable and healthy for everyone,” in the words of Boston Teachers Union President Jessica Tang.
For many teachers union activists advocating for social justice, an ?“equitable” school is one that can address the full range of human needs required to educate all children well. Children who are hungry and on the verge of eviction?—?or living in temporary shelters?—?cannot be expected to succeed academically, whether remotely or in person. An equitable school, for example, would support the Black Lives Matter movement in its call to replace police with counselors, nurses, social workers and restorative justice personnel. It would also support the cancellation of rents and mortgages, a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, and direct cash assistance for the unemployed and those unable to work. The nation’s second and third largest teachers unions, in Chicago and Los Angeles, helped organize protests against financial targets like the Chamber of Commerce, the Federal Reserve, the Board of Trade and big banks, calling for interest-free loans and higher taxes on the rich to fund safe school reopenings.
The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and the National Education Association (NEA) have verbally supported some of the movement’s demands. For example, AFT has endorsed a union local’s right to strike when necessary to prevent reopenings that endanger lives. But both unions have also embraced the push from Wall Street and Silicon Valley for educational technology to control learning and profit from student data. The pandemic CARES Act, endorsed by both unions, encourages funneling limited public education funding into software for distance learning, controlled by corporations. Ed tech corporations and liberal think tanks are now pushing software for ?“personalized learning” and ?“social and emotional development” that collects data that can be used for profit and surveillance— while simultaneously distorting and appropriating ideals about making learning individual and caring for children’s needs. Though some teachers are starting to use their local and state unions, like the Massachusetts Teachers Association, to push back against the NEA and AFT positions, the dangers of ed tech in reopening plans and education remain mostly unrecognized.
Powerful elites are willing to sacrifice the lives and futures of millions of people to feed their own profits. Even beyond the life-and-death risk to their personal health, teachers’ struggles mark resistance to the perpetuation of this unequal, unjust society.
For a response to this piece, see ?“All the Options for Schooling Are Bad?—?But We Have to Choose Safety” by Chandra Thomas Whitfield.
This blog was originally published at In These Times on September 17, 2020. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Lois Weiner is a professor of education at New Jersey City University who is on the editorial board of New Politics. Her newest book is The Future of Our Schools: Teachers Unions and Social Justice.
About the Author: Jackson Potter is a Chicago Teachers Union trustee, member of the Big Bargaining Team and a teacher at Back of The Yards College Prep.
The American Federation of Teachers will support its members if they decide to strike over the rush to reopen schools without regard for safety, the union announced Tuesday. The union has been pushing for increased federal funding to help schools reopen safely, but with Mitch McConnell’s Senate taking its sweet time and Donald Trump demanding in-person schooling regardless of safety, teachers can’t just sit and wait.
The AFT’s guidelines for safe reopening in person include the ability of schools to implement social distancing, ventilation and other upgrades to schools, adequate hand-washing facilities, and mask-wearing. But additionally, the union calls for communities to meet safety standards and not reopen schools until “The average daily community infection rate among those tested for COVID-19 is below 5 percent and the transmission rate is below 1 percent,” as well as having in place contact tracing and “a statewide, city- and/or community-level authority empowered to trigger closure in the event of a spike in infection or when public health standards aren’t being met.”
The current Senate Republican proposal includes just $70 billion of the hundreds of billions of dollars in funding experts say are needed to make schools safe, and Republicans are requiring in-person classes for access to much of that already inadequate funding. So schools that aren’t safe to open because they require additional funding to make them safe would be entirely screwed. As is the Republican way.
“Why would anyone trust President Trump with reopening schools, when he has mishandled everything else about the coronavirus?” AFT President Randi Weingarten asked in a speech to the union’s convention, being held online. “Why would anyone trust Betsy DeVos, who has zero credibility about how public schools actually work? Why would anyone try to reopen schools through force and threats, without a plan and without resources, creating chaos? Unless all they wanted was for it to fail?”
”Before the virus’ resurgence, and before Trump’s and DeVos’ reckless ‘open or else’ threats, 76 percent of AFT members said they were comfortable returning to school buildings if the proper safeguards were in place,” Weingarten noted. But recent events have changed that—and it’s beyond clear that the proper safeguards will not be in place if Trump has anything to do with it.
Teachers continue to fight it out state by state, trying to find a way to educate kids without risking the lives of teachers and students alike. The Florida Education Association, an affiliate of the National Education Association, has sued Gov. Ron DeSantis over his reckless push to reopen. After pressure from Massachusetts teachers unions, the state’s schools will open 10 days late to give time to prepare for whatever it is education will look like. “We had 24 hours to plan for crisis learning remotely in the spring, and not a single minute in the last 13 weeks to stop and reflect and evaluate and revise it,” Massachusetts Teachers Association President Merrie Najimy said. The 10-day pause is intended to provide that time—but teachers in the state are still pushing for other key provisions to make the coming year safe. In New York City, the Movement of Rank and File Educators is threatening a sickout if the city doesn’t ensure safety. In California, teachers unions were pushing back against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s pressure to reopen in person—until Newsom ordered schools in much of the state to open remotely until things are safer.
Schools are massively important not just to kids but to the economy as a whole. Yet Republicans have put everything else ahead of them, making it essentially impossible to safely open schools in much of the country. This required a giant investment months ago to make school buildings safer, and a giant effort to reduce community transmission of coronavirus so that well-ventilated schools with social distancing and mask-wearing have even a small prayer of avoiding outbreaks. It shouldn’t be on teachers to make federal and state and local lawmakers bend to what the science is already telling them.
This blog originally appeared at Daily Kos on July 28, 2020. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson has been a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006. Full-time staff since 2011, currently assistant managing editor.
Reopening schools is a major workers’ issue in multiple ways. There are the workers inside schools: not just teachers but paraprofessionals, librarians, custodial workers, nurses. Their lives are at stake in the push to reopen schools without regard for safety. Then there are the parents whose ability to work rests in part on their kids not being at home, needing them every three minutes. And, of course, schools prepare children for many of the kinds of work they may do in adulthood—and send them messages how they will be valued and treated as adult workers. Right now, every one of those groups is getting the message that they don’t matter.
On August 3, a national day of resistance is planned by Demand Safe Schools, a coalition of teachers unions, education advocates, and grassroots parents’ groups. While “safe” is a moving target these days, they are emphasizing not just safety in schools but the equitable conditions that will make all students safer at home and better supported for remote learning if that’s what happens. You can check out their list of demands below.
No reopening until the scientific data supports it
All schools must be supported to function as community schools with adequate numbers of counselors and nurses and community/parent outreach workers
Safe conditions including lower class sizes, PPE, cleaning, testing, and other key protocols
Equitable access to online learning
Support for our communities and families, including moratorium on evictions/foreclosures, providing direct cash assistance to those not able to work or who are unemployed, and other critical social needs
Moratorium on new charter or voucher programs and standardized testing
Adequate and equitable funding, through federal stimulus
Massive infusion of federal money to support the reopening funded by taxing billionaires and Wall Street
This blog originally appeared at Daily Kos on July 25, 2020. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson has been a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006. Full-time staff since 2011, currently assistant managing editor.
Schools are a huge part of the economy—not just a place teachers and support staff and clerical workers and custodians work, but a place parents rely on to care for their kids so they can go to work. That means, as National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García said in a statement, “The American economy cannot recover if schools can’t reopen.” But reopening schools has to be done right, and without sacrificing students’ education, she continued, saying “we cannot properly reopen schools if funding is slashed and students don’t have what they need to be safe, learn and succeed.”
The NEA has offered its own guidance for reopening schools, calling for decisions rooted in science, with educators included in decision-making (they know their classrooms best, after all), access to personal protective equipment for students and school staff alike, and attention to equity in a pandemic that has hit Black and Latino communities especially hard. The union also calls for school systems to learn from the inequities exposed by the sudden move to remote learning, in which some students had computers and internet access and quiet places to learn while other students had none of those things. The NEA guidance is long, detailed, and thoughtful—and if you have many teacher friends, you may have heard that state reopening plans are … not necessarily those things.
This blog originally appeared at Daily Kos on June 20, 2020. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson has been a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006. Full-time staff since 2011, currently assistant managing editor.
Olivia Udovic and her husband, Edgar Sánchez—both teachers in Oakland—are among millions of Americans receiving federal stimulus checks. The money didn’t stay in their bank account for long, however; the pair is part of a nationwide movement of teachers paying their checks forward to undocumented families in their schools.
Udovic teaches kindergarten at Manzanita SEED Elementary, a dual-language school serving many immigrant households. Sixty-five percent of students there receive free or reduced-cost lunch. When schools closed March 27 in response to Covid-19, Udovic and her coworkers called parents for wellness check-ins. “Families were losing jobs, couldn’t pay rent and were left without food—especially undocumented folks who couldn’t access unemployment benefits,” Udovic says.
The $2.2 trillion federal Covid-19 stimulus package provides $1,200 to taxpayers bringing home less than $75,000 a year (plus $500 per child) and expands unemployment benefits. But undocumented workers are excluded from both provisions, despite collectively paying billions in taxes. California created its own $125 million coronavirus disaster relief fund to provide $500 in cash to some 250,000 undocumented immigrants in the state—a little less than 15% of the undocumented workforce. For many, that won’t fill the gap.
So Udovic and other members of her union, the Oakland Education Association (OEA), organized teachers to pledge their stimulus checks to Centro Legal de la Raza’s Oakland Undocumented Relief (OUR) Fund. The fund provides $500 checks or pre-paid debit cards to each family—an important consideration for many undocumented people who do not have bank accounts. According to Udovic, as of April 20, 33 teachers have pledged more than $16,000.
Henry Sales is a leader in Oakland’s Mam community, many of whom arrived from Guatemala without papers. “Many Mam people have come to the U.S. to work as day laborers, or they are selling fruit on the street,” Sales says. “They tell me, ‘If I can’t work, how will I care for my family, pay electricity, rent, food?’”
Oakland teachers are not alone. Frank Lara teaches fifth grade at Buena Vista Horace Mann K-8 Community School, a dual-language Spanish immersion school in San Francisco. While Lara transitioned to online classes, he was also talking to his undocumented neighbors in the Mission District. The heavily Latino neighborhood is home to many essential workers and has been hard-hit by the virus.
“It became apparent that undocumented folks who are holding the entire U.S. economy together would be sidelined,” Lara says. “Thanks to the strength of the union, we’ve maintained full-time jobs and benefits. Because we’re in that privileged position, people wanted to give. We said, ‘Let’s do it collectively.’”
Lara’s union, the United Educators of San Francisco, organized to give to UndocuFund SF—with 340 teachers pledging more than $115,000 so far.
Teachers in New York, Philadelphia and Chicago have also organized funds.
Anna Lane, a history teacher at Thomas Kelly College Preparatory in Chicago, has been working through the Chicago Teachers Union to survey parents, distribute resource lists and organize coworkers to donate to the Brighton Park Neighborhood Council’s Community Response Fund to support undocumented families.
“We’re not rolling in the dough,” Lane says. “But I get to stay home while my students’ parents work dangerous jobs or have been laid off. If I have that privilege, how do I help? Giving my check is not a sacrifice, it’s a necessity. We’re supposed to take care of each other.”
Back in Oakland, Udovic credits her union’s support in part to its increased emphasis on rank-and-file leaders. OEA’s historic weeklong 2019 strike trained hundreds of teachers to become union activists. “Many people doing the work today didn’t know how to participate before the strike,” Udovic says.
“The community coalition and relationships with parents that we built during the strike helped us be in a position during the Covid pandemic to rapidly address the needs of our families,” says OEA President Keith Brown.
For many unions, this moment is not just about providing immediate mutual aid to students’ families, but backing broader community demands.
“Just like in the strike, we do this for the families,” Lane says. “I’m proud of my union for promoting equity across Chicago by signing onto the Right to Recovery for all Chicagoans.” The Right to Recovery is a “common good” platform, put forward by dozens of labor and community organizations with many local and state elected officials, calling for paid time off, free Covid-19 testing and a moratorium on evictions, mortgage payments and utility shutoffs.
In Oakland, Udovic says, “The OEA is voting to be in solidarity with the rent strikes,” referring to the movement of tenants withholding rent and calling for its cancellation, given they cannot earn income while sheltering in place.
Lara emphasizes that the political climate necessitates unions help their communities as a whole. “We should see this as the trajectory of the union,” he says. “We’re one with the communities we serve. Without the support of those communities, we can’t win broader, radical reforms in public education.”
This article was originally published at In These Times on May 1, 2020. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Brooke Anderson is an Oakland, California-based organizer and photojournalist. She has spent 20 years building movements for social, economic, racial and ecological justice. She is a proud union member of the Pacific Media Workers Guild, CWA 39521, AFL-CIO.
Chicago teachers say that just half of one percent of the Chicago Public Schools budget is between what they would accept to end their strike and the city’s current offer. That’s $38 million as the strike closes schools for a ninth day. Not only that, the teachers point to nearly $100 million of costs that have been moved from the city budget to the schools budget.
“The payment for police in our schools, $33 million, which has traditionally been paid for by the city, was shifted to the schools; a pension payment that has traditionally been paid for by the city has been shifted to the schools,” Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Stacy Davis-Gates told Chicago Tonight. “So you have nearly $100 million of cost-shift from the city to the school budget at a time when we need it, at a time when the city is now, clearly, balancing their budget on the backs of our students.”
Another key issue is 30 minutes a day of prep time that elementary school teachers lost under former Mayor Rahm Emanuel. According to CTU, “Teachers used that time to contact parents, grade papers, prepare lesson plans and update curricula, reducing the amount of unpaid labor they put in outside of the work day. While CPS counts that half hour as ‘instructional minutes,’ for many teachers that time is spent wiping up spilled milk and cleaning up after students as they eat their breakfasts in the classrooms.”
SEIU Local 73, which represents many school support staff from custodians to classroom assistants, has reached a tentative deal to end its strike, which started alongside the teachers strike.
Meanwhile, over in Massachusetts, teachers in Dedham won an agreement and unanimously ratified it after just one weekday of strike. It was the first teachers strike in 12 years in the state, where public workers are legally prohibited from striking.
This article was originally published at Daily Kos on October 29, 2019. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Laura Clawson is a Daily Kos contributor at Daily Kos editor since December 2006. Full-time staff since 2011, currently assistant managing editor.
Democratic-leaning executives on Wall Street, in Silicon Valley and across the corporate world are watching Elizabeth Warren’s rise to frontrunner status in the Democratic primary with an increasing sense of existential panic.
And they feel mostly paralyzed to do much about it — other than throwing money at other candidates and praying.
Warren’s grassroots fundraising prowess shows she doesn’t need big corporate money. She’s got $26 million in the bank. And taking her on directly just makes her stronger with her populist base. Any attack on Warren from the tech or Wall Street worlds just turns into an immediate Warren talking point.
When CNBC host Jim Cramer did a piece on money managers freaking out about Warren, the candidate grabbed the clip and tweeted above it: “I’m Elizabeth Warren and I approve this message.”
It’s led to fairly widespread frustration that Warren’s rise seems unstoppable.
“There’s really not a damn thing you can do about Warren. There is nothing,” said one prominent Wall Street hedge fund manager and Democratic bundler who is raising money for a Warren rival. “It’s the same thing Republicans went through with Trump. You look at her and think what she is going to do is going to be horrible for the country. But if you say anything about it you just make her stronger.”
This fund manager, like a half-dozen other executives interviewed for this story, declined to be identified by name for fear of being directly attacked by Warren. Some, however, are happy to ring the alarm, no matter how Warren might use their words.
“What is wrong with billionaires? You can become a billionaire by developing products and services that people will pay for,” said Leon Cooperman, a billionaire former Goldman Sachs executive who is now CEO of investment firm Omega Advisors and who predicts a 25 percent market drop should Warren become president. “I believe in a progressive income tax and the rich paying more. But this is the fucking American dream she is shitting on.”
Earlier in the campaign, executives suggested they found Warren at least a more palatable alternative to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), an avowed democratic socialist. Warren, a former Republican, has said she’s a capitalist “to my bones.” Even now, some billionaires are urging calm.
“‘Ninety-seven percent of the people I know in my world are really, really fearful of her,” billionaire Michael Novogratz told Bloomberg over the weekend. “It’s a little carried away.”
But more broadly the mood has shifted as Warren now leads Biden in some national and early state polls. And she has intensified her rhetoric toward Wall Street and the tech industry in particular.
At last week’s debate she stressed that she would no longer take any money at all from tech or Wall Street executives, after having success with tech donors earlier in the campaign.
“If we are going to talk about Wall Street and having some serious regulation over Wall Street, we should ask if people are funding their campaigns by taking money from those executives,” Warren said, an indirect dig at former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg, both of whom have held high-dollar Wall Street fundraisers.
“You can’t go behind closed doors and take the money of these executives and then turn around and expect that these are the people who are actually finally going to enforce the laws. We need campaign finance rules and practices.”
The current strategy among centrist, corporate-friendly Democrats is mostly to hope and pray that Biden — or perhaps Buttigieg or even Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) — can still take her out and prevent a possible Warren presidency that could upend business models and reshape entire industries.
Most are not ready to jump over to Trump, but some at least ponder the idea.
“I don’t assume all these people would go to Trump. Plenty of them think there is much more at stake than just narrow industry interests or tax rates,” a second hedge fund executive said. “There are a bunch of financial people that at the end of the day, if she’s the candidate, they will still support her. They won’t raise money for her because they can’t. But they will still support her because of what the alternative is.”
Among other things scaring corporate America and rich people, Warren has pledged to institute wealth taxes and break up tech giants and Wall Street banks. She has taken sharpest aim at the private equity industry, introducing the “Stop Wall Street Looting Act of 2019” that would essentially wipe out some of the industry’s most lucrative practices.
Much of this would be hard to enact without large majorities in both houses of Congress. But Warren could do a great deal in the regulatory world to appoint strict overseers and push much more stringent rules while rolling back the Trump administration’s deregulation efforts.
As of now, there is no organized Stop Warren strategy.
The closest thing that has emerged lately is a vague whisper campaign that former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg could ride into the Democratic primary at the last minute if it appears Biden is really failing. But even Bloomberg’s closest confidants admit there is little chance he could succeed.
“Mike’s calculation, rightly or wrongly, is that the same people who back Biden would back him,” said a person close to the former mayor. “But it’s by no means clear to him or to anyone that it’s even possible.”
Political observers view a late Bloomberg run as even less likely to succeed.
“First of all Bloomberg is older than Biden, even though he doesn’t look it,” said Greg Valliere, chief U.S. strategist at AGF Investments, the Toronto financial firm. “And the big impediment is he’s out of step with his own party. The activist base would be appalled by someone so pro-Wall Street.”
Biden’s dip in the polls — coupled with his troubling report of just $9 million in cash on hand at the end of the third quarter — has anti-Warren Wall Street types looking hard at other Democrats, led for the moment by Buttigieg, who has built a strong core of well-heeled fundraisers led by hedge fund manager Orin Kramer.
According to recently released figures, Buttigieg raised around $25,000 from executives at finance firms including Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan and hedge fund giants like Bridgewater, Renaissance Technologies and Elliott Management in the third quarter. And he raised around $150,000 from donors who described their occupation as “investor.”
Overall, Buttigieg is now in much stronger financial shape than Biden with around $23 million in the bank at the end of the third quarter to around $9 million for the former vice president. Klobuchar has just $3.7 million, which leads many big donors to think she doesn’t have a shot to last long after early voting in Iowa and New Hampshire next year.
Buttigieg raising significant cash from Wall Street executives may make him a target of both Warren and Sanders. But a Buttigieg campaign official said it would not have an influence on his policies toward the industry. “People are coming to us because of Pete’s message and they are seeing and hearing real excitement and enthusiasm around him,” the official said. “We have over 600,000 individual donors to this campaign and our grassroots energy is very, very strong. We have events where people give more money and events where people give $10 or $15 and people who give $1 or $2 online.”
Perhaps the biggest hope among centrist Democrats is not that Biden finally catches fire again or that Buttigieg bursts to the top. It’s that Warren’s time as the frontrunner takes a toll. Signs of that emerged in the Democratic debate last week as Klobuchar and others went after Warren for not being clear how she would pay for “Medicare for All” and refusing to say that she would raise taxes. Warren is now pledging to come up with a plan to pay for her plan.
Some executives also say they hope that moderate Democrats in swing Senate and House seats up in 2020 will begin to get scared of running with Warren at the top of the ticket and start to agitate harder for Biden or someone else.
“What it’s going to take is moderate Democrats in swing states and swing districts who are terrified of running with her at the top of the ticket coming out and doing something,” said a senior executive at one of Wall Street’s largest banks. “But nobody wants to piss her off. Nobody wants to be on her bad list.”
This executive said if Warren gets to the general election that Trump — whose campaign had $83 million in the bank at the end of the third quarter — would paint her as a threat to the American economy. “No one has really run opposition research on her yet. She’s skated pretty clean up till now. If you get her in the general, Trump and the RNC will paint her to the left of Mao. You look at the history of John Kerry and Michael Dukakis and Massachusetts liberals and it’s not very good.”
This article was originally published at Politico on October 23, 2019. Reprinted with permission.
About the Author: Ben White is POLITICO Pro’s chief economic correspondent and author of the “Morning Money” column covering the nexus of finance and public policy.
Prior to joining POLITICO in the fall of 2009, Mr. White served as a Wall Street reporter for the New York Times, where he shared a Society of Business Editors and Writers award for breaking news coverage of the financial crisis.
From 2005 to 2007, White was Wall Street correspondent and U.S. Banking Editor at the Financial Times.
White worked at the Washington Post for nine years before joining the FT. He served as national political researcher and research assistant to columnist David S. Broder and later as Wall Street correspondent.
White, a 1994 graduate of Kenyon College, has two sons and lives in New York City.
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