Who Is Holding A Gun To The Heads of The Teachers At Cesar Chavez Charter Schools?
The New America Foundation's Sara Mead (a DFER board member), guestblogging over at Eduwonk, is asking what Cesar Chavez would do about an interesting debate that has been playing out in the blogosphere lately.
It all started with an interesting post from United Federation of Teachers V.P. Leo Casey on Edwize explaining his early days in organizing and activism. At the end of the post, Leo argued that it was uncool that charter schools were named after Cesar Chavez while "denying their teachers the right to organize into a union."
Actually, Leo's post was based on another post, by blogger Mike Klonsky, which raised the question of whether or not Chavez was rolling over in his grave over the idea that there were teachers working at these charter schools without union cards.
Andy Rotherham, who was blacklisted in the Klonsky post for being a
communist board member at the Cesar Chavez Public Charter Schools for Public Policy (note: Klonsky made fun of the title for being too public) responded on Eduwonk that it was "preposterous" and noted the accolades the D.C. school has received for empowering the powerless, something he thought Chavez might have appreciated. Leo in turn responded to Andy's post.
But then Sara comes along and, in asking the grand question about what Chavez would do, makes some crucial points: namely that neither Klonsky nor Casey has provided any evidence that this particular charter school is involved in any sort of union resistance. It could be there somewhere, but at this point Casey and Klonsky seem to be keeping it locked up, only to be released when the Congressional Hearings begin or something.
So what would Chavez do?
Unlike Leo, I never had the privilege of watching Chavez up close, but I have long admired his work and had read as much as I could on his thinking and methods. I'm sure others with more intimate knowledge will correct me, but it seems likely that he would have done one of two things with the charter school:
1. If he thought the conditions were ripe (i.e. if he felt the teachers wanted union representation) he'd go in an organize it. He wouldn't whine and moan about how hard it was. Boo hoo hoo! He wouldn't blame his ineffectiveness on Wal Mart. He wouldn't waste his time reading Eduwonk. He'd get his culo out of bed in the morning and he'd just do it - especially since there would be ABSOLUTELY NOTHING stopping him from doing so (except maybe relatively complacent teachers?) Note: Some of my best friends are board members at charter schools and none of them could have possibly spooked Chavez!
2. If there was some obstacle standing between the Cesar Chavez Charter School and teachers who wanted to organize, he might help organize a mass exodus of teachers to other schools, where they would be treated better. He might have understood how tight the labor market is right now for good teachers, so he'd likely have an easy time convincing teachers not to keep showing up to a God-awful job if there are plenty of job openings elsewhere within walking distance of that school. He might get the teachers together and permanently boycott the school.
So why isn't this happening?