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School Workers: What Did Our Unions Do on Our Summer Vacation?

Our Unions and Capital

The two school worker unions, the huge National Education Association (NEA) and the smaller American Federation of Teachers (AFT), met in conventions in mid-summer, the NEA over the July 4th weekend, AFT shortly thereafter.

NEA, with about 3 million members, is the nation’s largest union by far. It’s also a $300 million business. AFT claims to be about half NEA’s size, with an inflated assertion of 1.5 million members.

School workers’ dues overwhelming supplies the NEA with most of its income, much of it forced dues income under the “agency shop” (either join the union or pay nearly equivalent fees) provisions.

AFT represents tens of thousands, perhaps 200,000, people outside schools, like health care workers, but like NEA, the money which keeps AFT afloat comes from school workers.

(I use that “school workers” in opposition to “teachers,” as many, many members in schools are not teachers, and to set off the boosterish “professionals,” a deceptive word that is constantly used when bosses want the employees to work 90-hour weeks, buy their own supplies, clean their own rooms and bathrooms, cover lunch rooms, etc. But when it comes to setting wages, hours and working conditions, the professionals immediately become workers again. School workers like to be called pros to set themselves off from other workers–doubling a mistake).

Like the schooling field in general, money is key in what passes for education in the US–that and imperial power–as we shall see.

Money creates a fully segregated, not-so-public, but capitalist, school system in the US. It follows that to “Defend Public Education,” is to defend a myth, and the capitalist state that defines schooling.

Headaches

NEA and AFT top leaders faced serious problems in the summer of 2018.

In the spring, school workers, typically joined by students and parents, led wildcat strikes (opposed by both the employers and the unions) in West Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma (where wages are the lowest in the US and workers haven’t had a raise in a decade), North Carolina, Colorado, and Arizona. These wildcats were surprisingly popular in states seen as “Trump Country,” demonstrating the old mole of class struggle can undermine many fantasies.

A PDK poll completed shortly after the conventions indicated: ““We cannot be comfortable with the stunning contradiction that a majority of Americans both recognize the importance of the teaching profession and want their own kids nowhere near it,” said JoAnn Bartoletti, executive director of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, in a prepared statement. “The recent series of teacher strikes and the public support for more should wake us up to the need to invest more purposefully and creatively in the professionals who do nothing less than build our collective future.””

Sometimes wildcat strikes produce waves–the West Virginia action may have sparked strike fever in schools as far away as Tunisia.

In each case in the US, NEA and AFT leaders sought desperately to herd the work force, first back into school and, next, to voting booths in November, diverting and sabotaging direct action on the job to the electoral selection process where working people all choose who will oppress us best.

All of the wildcats took place in states where the unions are weaker and do not have the agency shop. And the direct-action strikes, often matched by marches on state capitals, demonstrated profound, if latent, distrust between the workers, the government, and the union leadership.

Bloomberg quoted one wildcat leader, Larry Cagle: “We’re going to force this on the union and on the superintendent,” he said. “Teachers are ready-they are chomping at the bit.” (3-6-18)

In West Virginia, the workers clearly wildcatted against the union which, without consulting the rank and file strikers, made a backroom deal. The employees rejected that hidden compromise and stayed out, thousands chanting at the state capital because the deal didn’t settle their health insurance issues, and because they doubted the governor would honor the pay package anyway.

In Oklahoma, NEA-OEA president Alicia Priest did everything she could to halt a strike, promising local action with legislators, to little avail. She, like the rest of the NEA state leaders, called a strike after it had begun. The Oklahoma Governor, Mary Fallin, compared the strikers demands for better pay to “teenagers wanting a better car.”

In every case, after some bitter and correct accusations of union betrayals, the school employees in each state went back to work with promises of better pay, health care, smaller classes, better working conditions–guarantees that are so far unmet.

Well-Healed Union Bosses and Capital’s “Unions”

More problems for school union bosses:

The NEA and AFT top leaders were exposed as part of the 1%: rich.

Randi Weingarten of AFT made $543,150 total in 2013 according to the California Policy Center–and she owns two homes, one in posh East Hampton, New York. The 2013 figure must also include expenses as Weingarten only made $472,197 in 2016.

NEA’s Lily Eskelsen Garcia took home a total of $512,504 in 2016, an election year which probably meant her expense account (presidential suites, personal drivers, etc.) boomed due to travel. In any case, when perks are taken into account, Garcia can bank her paycheck and live on the reimbursed expenses.

As labor reporter Mike Antonucci demonstrated, NEA’s payroll “for 2016 was just over $68.6 million for 555 employees – an average of $123,613 per worker. That average worker fits into the top 8 percent of U.S. wage earners. By comparison, the average 2016 teacher salary of $58,353 placed that individual in the top 30 percent.” NEA pension and health care benefits are Cadillac plans.

Enter Wikileaks and Vote Rigging

The John Podesta Wikileaks revelations showed that both Weingarten and Garcia had rigged their internal processes (vote rigging is commonplace in AFT, but not in NEA) to offer Hillary Clinton an early endorsement, infuriating many Bernie Sanders supporters among the ranks.

In 2008, NEA didn’t endorse Obama until after his nomination (then winner Obama and Arne Duncan, his education secretary, honored at NEA representative assemblies, launched their continuation of the assaults on American schooling–this one regulating curricula even more, more high stakes standardized testing, more school closings–the Race to the Top, etc.)

Then, the two big unions threw money into the Clinton campaign. The National Education Association spent $23.7 million. The American Federation of Teachers blew $8.8 million. The unions also spent about $2.5 million on congressional races.

Clinton, running the worst campaign in US history, even worse than Herbert Hoover, managed to lose, despite outspending the next Caligula, Trump, far more than two to one. About $5 Billion, total, was spent on the tweedle-dee vs oh-so-deviously-dum campaign.

One in five AFT members who voted, voted for Trump. One in three NEA members who voted, cast for Trump. Weingarten blamed it on sexism, not the “deplorables,” not the groveling to Wall Street revealed by Wikileaks, not the seven losing wars Clinton, Samantha Power, and Susan Rice began, not the long history of cuckqueen Clinton deception and entitlement. Teachers are about 75% women. (USA Today, 11/23/16)

Janus and the Two-Faced “Unions”

A new crisis hit NEA and AFT shortly before the conferences convened. Although the Janus decision was predictable, it never-the-less stung.

Randi Weingarten had warned, in sworn testimony, the Supreme Court justices that weakening the unions would “lead to more activism and political action.”

“The funders backing the Janus case and the Supreme Court Justices who want to eliminate collective bargaining with the hope that such a move would silence workers need only to look at West Virginia for what will happen if they get their way. A loss of collective bargaining would lead to more activism and political action, not less. Collective bargaining exists as way for workers and employers to peacefully solve labor relations.”

“Once you throw that out the window, the only other path for voice and economic gains is through politics and legislation. That’s exactly the case in West Virginia, which lacks collective bargaining, where thousands of teachers mobilized and took on the governor and legislature for their failure to provide teachers with the economic dignity and voice they deserve – and that kind of activism will be multiplied and magnified across the country if collective bargaining is struck down.” (WaPo March 5, 2018).

Here is a key American labor leader openly stating that U.S. unions exist for social control. Labor peace–no strike clauses–is sold by the union bosses in exchange for dues income off which the petty-bosses live very well–in effect a bribe. Unions exist to forestall the obvious–class struggle. She’s right. US unions are not what most people think they are.

The Supreme Court ruling in favor of Janus effectively wiped out the agency shop–forced dues–the key to any union’s bosses’ livelihood. Even before the decision was publicized, NEA had started to cut staff and costs.

Spinning, the leaders of the two unions downplayed Janus, claiming their organizing abilities would offset it for the most part.

That’s unlikely. In Michigan, when a right-to-work, Janus-like, measure, was instituted, 24% of the Michigan Education Association members quit. Probably more will as the union’s ineffectiveness as a protection racket comes clear.

Moreover, organizing is difficult when the union declares unity with the boss–contradicting the reason most people think they join unions.

The United Auto Workers experienced this in the south when potential UAW voters repeatedly reject the union–many on the well-considered grounds that they would be just electing a new layer of bosses. Revelations about UAW corruption, bribes to UAW top leaders from Chrysler, to the tune of $9 million, demonstrate that the big corruption, “Partners in Production,” leads directly to this smaller, but massive corruption.

A Staff Strike Vs “Partners in Production”

NEA’s executives had yet another problem. The NEA staff threatened a strike and key delegates knew about their complaints. A staff strike is rare in NEA, but the threat does fly in the face of the official NEA position in regard to their relationship with employers, a stand the staff is to promote: “Partners in Production.”

Those Pesky Wars

One more problem lurked in deep background: Perpetual war. The wars have cost untold trillions, hundreds of thousands of lives–some of them the kids we looked at as educators.

School budgets were frozen; some slashed. Schools closed. Educators were driven out, often the best of us, by regimentation, opportunist ladder climbing principals, high-stakes exams, orders that “the children cannot play, but they must exercise.”  The entire system squeezed down.

With the Vietnam Syndrome effectively destroyed, a hysterical conversion crisis of patriotism, consumerism, militarism, and the celebration of sheer ignorance swept the US. Speculation about why that happens will appear in the conclusion.

For years, NEA delegates brought forward resolutions “To discuss the wars.” That is, again, “To discuss,” not to oppose. Each year, that motion was rejected prior to debate by a floor rule, peculiar to NEA, that says, in essence, “We will not debate this as it might upset us.”

This year, there was no motion about the wars. However, an exhibitor’s booth at the NEA Representative Assembly (RA) did offer delegates training on how to treat combat wounds.

I attended NEA’s RA’s as staff (I was an organizer when NEA believed in strikes), as a guest, or as an elected delegate, twenty-five times since 1986. I wrote extensively about the experiences as NEA changed over time, the bureaucracy entrenched and became nearly impenetrable

I didn’t hold out much hope that the wildcat waves would hit the RA although I knew that sometimes, if rarely, the delegates do rebel. They did in the late 90’s when the NEA leadership tried to gin up a merger with the AFL-CIO. The delegates, who have a secret ballot, unlike in AFT, voted that down–shocking the NEA bosses.

I hoped for a resolution calling for a national school strike. No one put that forward, but a motion for a Mayday school strike in 2019 did. We shall see what came of it.

Weingarten, Garcia, and their executive boards had weighty dilemmas as they prepared for the July conventions.

A Savior!

Then, Donald Trump, the Orange Caligula, saved them.

Trump directed Homeland Security and the Border Patrol to crack down on all border crossers, including asylum seekers, and the combined agencies set about splitting children from parents.

Now, that is bad enough, of course, and it’s redoubled when those agencies didn’t bother to track the kids and lost track of hundreds of them.

NEA and AFT went hysterical. Children! Separated! The horror–and it is indeed a horror.

But that pales in relation to the 10,000 children killed or maimed in US-sponsored wars in 2017 alone–a preposterously low estimate proffered by the United Nations on Voice of America.

In the years since 2001, or 17 years of endless imperialist war, millions of people, assuredly hundreds of thousands of children, were killed, wounded, drowned, or turned into refugees on the road, in tents, in caves around the Middle East, in Africa, Central America, and Yemen. Surely, those families were even more broken up.

NEA and AFT bosses knew they could ignore that–betting intelligently on the nationalism of the delegates and that hysterical conversion crisis that sweeps the United States.

The leaders called for a “March for Children and Families;” delegates went wild.

“On June 30, a few days before the start of NEA’s Representative Assembly in Minneapolis, thousands of educators from across the country joined in solidarity with activists, Minneapolis-based organizations, and NEA allies at a march to tell President Donald Trump and his administration to stop separating kids from their parents.” (NEA RA online).

NEA’s Garcia said she’d settle scores with Trump at the ballot box in November–precisely the lifesaving maneuver NEA and AFT executives needed.

At the opening of the NEA RA, on June 30th, patriotism ruled, as it usually does at RA’s. Bunting matching the US flag is usually everywhere. Delegates rose and sang the “Star Spangled Banner,” with gusto. Then, in caucuses, they sang, “God Bless America.”

Since Lily Garcia prides herself on singing Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” disingenuously mimicking the words alone, I felt it appropriate to post on the delegate Facebook page that the song was written in opposition to “God Bless America,” (god was a nationalist before the nation existed?). I noted that Woody was proud of the large note on his guitar, “This machine kills fascists.”

One delegate emailed to tell me that I was wrong about Woody’s song. Another said that god DID bless America.

Earlier, I had posted Garcia’s income, some thoughts about “the working class and the employing class have contradictory interests,” and for the first time ever, I was blocked from the list.

Later, well after the RA, I was re-instated. “We thought you were a robot.”

Nearly everything went well for Garcia and the other NEA hacks.

How is it that 6,000 well-educated (or mis-educated) school workers can be so easily fooled into following the millionaires, Garcia and Weingarten, up so many blind alleys-into the blind canyon of voting booths?

Dodges

Identity politics play well in NEA. Realities of class war and empire, the basis for real solidarity, don’t.

Add:

+ Religion

+ Witless Nationalism-worship of the empire which, not incidentally, pays.

+ Pressure working down through a vast, well-greased, hierarchy with offers of internal promotions, small bribes growing into bigger ones–that is, corruption and sheer opportunism.

+ Habit/Custom and racism.

+ Many teachers were the “obedient ones.”

+ Spectacles

+ Cowardice or indifference

+ Adoration of those who dominate (“I’m good for you”)

+ Education is the key to class rule. As self-declared agents of the state, they’re semi-intellectuals in service to rulers, everywhere. (But some, starting with a few, rebel).

Delusory Awards Undermined

At the RA opening came NEA’s “Human and Civil Rights Heroes Honored Awards Ceremony.”

We are here offered a tick list of identity politics, also known as inter-sectionality–or bullshit–the Democratic Party politics of Capital and Empire. (Quotes are excerpts from “NEA RA TODAY”).

“Michelle Obama was honored for transforming and redefining the role of First Lady of the United States by intentionally focusing her attention on advancing opportunities for women and girls with the Mary Hatwood Futrell Human and Civil Rights Award.”

(Nobody noted the mass murder her husband led, not even “Drone Tuesday,” which may have killed thousands of women and girls as collateral damage. Futrell is the only president of NEA in the last thirty years who actually appeared and supported member direct action strikes).

“Colin Kaepernick sparked a nationwide movement when he sat during the National Anthem at a San Francisco 49ers pre-season football game in 2016.”

(What about all those segregated suburban schools NEA represents?).

“NEA recognized the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO, for removing barriers and inspiring communities as they fight for worker rights, human rights, educational equity, and advanced labor and Asian community partnerships, with the Ellison S. Onizuka Memorial Award.”

(The AFL-CIO IS the CIA-see Kim Scipes’ work– and IS a key cause of the crises of human rights in the third world. And, the AFL-CIO, particularly the Service Employees International Union and the AFT destroyed Puerto Rico’s school unions).

“Dedicated North Carolina Activist Honored Posthumously”

“North Carolina educator Rodney Ellis, Sr., believed that a great education opens doors for students. Throughout his life, he worked tirelessly to ensure that students and educators across North Carolina, especially in under served communities, received the resources they needed to provide an excellent education no matter their ZIP code. As a teacher, union leader and champion for students and educators, Ellis embodied the César Chávez Acción y Compromiso Human and Civil Rights Awards, which this year NEA recognized posthumously.”

(Chavez was a religious fanatic, a sellout, and a bitter opponent of immigrant labor-see the book, “Trampling out the Vintage” by Frank Bardacke).

“Celebrating the African-American Story”

“As the founding director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African History and Culture (NMAAHC), Dr. L.G. Bunch, III has transformed the understanding of African-American history for generations to come. Dr. Bunch has not only created a place for America to honor and celebrate the African-American story, but a place that encourages reflection, dialogue, and understanding. NEA honored Dr. Bunch with the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Award.”

(Think Detroit, Flint, Compton, etc. NEA is responsible for the crises in those cities-as the only organized force that could have helped. NEA just walked away).

“The lone voice calling for the creation of an Affirmative Action Committee to address race, ethnic, disability, and LGBTQ inequities in the California Faculty Association, Dr. Cecil Canton developed and leveraged committees within the system to transform the union into a powerful engine for racial and social justice. He successfully organized the creation of the committee and then worked to elevate it to a council, putting it on par structurally with the presidents and lecturers councils.”

(The real affirmative action has been the imprisonment of about 1.5 million black and brown people. The other side of affirmative action created a class of completely sold out opportunist “African” Americans–think Obama to Kwame Kilpatrick and all in between–who run the cities, and recently, the nation, in making class and empire’s war on all).

“Fighting for LGBTQ Rights”

“Chris Sgro has long been a champion for equal rights for the LGBTQ community. As the Executive Director of Equality North Carolina, he fiercely led the opposition to HB 2, once known as the most anti-LGBTQ legislation in the country.”

Union Yes!

“Unions in Wisconsin weathered some of the most relentless political attacks in the country. In spite of these unprovoked efforts to silence the voices of workers and educators, the Milwaukee Teachers Education Association persisted in its commitment to make sure students thrive. For this, the NEA bestowed upon MTEA the Rosena J. Willis Memorial Award.”

Reg Weaver is a former NEA president. In his last year in office, he made $686,949. He was so dull, he couldn’t even read a press release that was written for him. In eight years as NEA president, he accomplished nothing, but he did declare that he was key to “The Most Important Thing in the History of the Labor Movement Since the Merger of the AFL-CIO!”  That came to nothing as well. Weaver now serves on the Board of Education International (EI), along with all the living past presidents of NEA and AFT. EI is an inheritor of the CIA-sponsored cold war school unions, aiming its mission outside the US. That is the direct connection of the school unions and the empire.

Don’t Strike! Vote!

NEA Boss Lily Eskelsen Garcia, with the opening speech, worked through every imaginable form of identity politics, then claimed credit for wildcat strikes she opposed, and subsequently betrayed.

Now, how to herd the ranks back to the ballot box? Add some crocodile tears for students marching for their lives.

It’s not demagoguery at its finest, but it is hysteria rising.

Following her introductory remarks, NEA President Garcia hauled in a student from Stoneman Douglas (any issue but class war). And he swears he’s a real patriot! Plus, he says he LOVES the NRA! See the video, here.

The liberal Bullshit Association of Teachers (BATS), whose founding member was expelled in a broad purge, endorsed Robert Rodriguez for the executive committee. Robert made a speech backing FAMILY VALUES.  Then he too went on to list every conceivable form of identity politics but class war and imperialism.

AFT’s Randi Weingarten ($1/2 million a year and a multi-millionaire-as above), long an enemy of NEA, spoke at the RA, falsely praising the wildcats (as above she testified at the Supreme Court in Janus that “collective bargaining, meaning dues check off, is necessary to prevent wildcats as the trade-off is dues income for a contractual promise for no strikes or job actions”).

Weingarten went on to say “teachers became the human shield for our students”-so lets chant’ “I’m sticking with my union”… “They’ want to suppress the right to vote and destroy unions”… “Betsy Devoss is the worst Secretary of Ed ever.”…“They are cruel to children!”…

“We have had our disagreements [yes, they were called the teacher wars] but we are together today!”

“We are part of movement building, like #METOO against the avalanche of hate and intolerance! For Civil Rights we stand! Unions secure the wages we live on. The boss tries to put us down. Americans are rising up in a New Movement that we are building. People support teacher unions more than ever.” (true, it’s due to the wildcats).

“Support for unions grew to the highest level in fifteen years. We are the only organized force that will challenge the right wing.”

“Janus is a challenge and opportunity. With Lily, with NEA, AFT and SEIU-we are an indomitable force-for the ballot box in November. This is a which side are you on moment–are we going to be a check and balance? For good middle class jobs [might say `working class but that might annoy white people], democracy that works for everyone.”

“Yes it is a scary time, Our democracy hangs in the balance, if we act with solidarity-are you ready to rise, to take our country back!”- applause!

Just a reminder: What Weingarten and Garcia did in every instance was unite with state and national bosses, against their members and the entire working class of the world. This is about their money and their protection of the empire, not about the real class war school workers now witness.

John Stocks, the executive director of NEA, gave a tub-thumper, perhaps as a veneer that during his nearly ten years in office, NEA did nothing but lose members and sell out those who remain. (See his video here).

NEA’s Rep Assembly, this year with only 6016 delegates attending, usually addresses about

100 New Business Items (NBIs). This year, there were 129, despite the size of the body being one-half what it was five years ago. As is custom, most of the NBIs came from California.

New Business Items: Yes and No

Most NBIs are simply nuisance, either not relevant, or pabulum.

Typically, a few are key to the leadership, if not the rank and file.

NEA still has some shards of democracy left within the union, as represented by the continuation of secret balloting, but not many.

Only two significant things went wrong for the NEA leadership in 2018.

President Lily Garcia wanted to call a Constitutional Convention which would have reversed much of whatever there is left of democracy in NEA, and set up a format for a merger. In this assembly, the delegates voted down the motion, NBI 1, again. Garcia promised to return next year with the same motion.

In addition, Garcia wanted to collect money through an “allied” group that would allow non-education personnel to join NEA-an obvious offset to Janus (NEA cut $50 million from its budget and at least 40 national staff.)

That required a Constitutional Amendment and a two-thirds vote. One delegate rose to point out that if this passed, Bill Gates could join NEA and “control follows his dollar.” It was close, but the secret ballot prevailed and the delegates, again, voted NO.

Rather than flounder through 129 New Business Items, By-laws, and Constitutional Amendments, I selected several to highlight some identity politics maneuvers, so useful to NEA top mis-leaders. I added a few NBIs which demonstrate what the NEA delegates do not want to do, but probably should.

As above, in 2018, there was no NBI addressing the most significant thing any nation can do-go to war. School workers have paid the price for these wars–in income, benefits, their own blood, and that of their students–but endless war is no concern to NEA.

New Business Item 58

Ruled Out of Order

NEA will:

Collaborate with local border issues organizers to plan at least one action to shut down an immigration detention center, a Customs and Border Patrol office, or an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) office;

Recruit at least 500 educators (including retired educators) to participate in the action who are willing to be arrested and not bail out of jail for a week.

***

New Business Item 66

Defeated

Using existing resources, NEA will educate its members about neoliberalism – what it is an what it does. This would include how “neoliberal reforms” have been applied in many countries with disastrous results for working people. In the public education area, neoliberal reforms promote privatization and create a toxic environment.

New Business Item 68

Defeated

In an alliance with the nurses union and other organizations, NEA will draft a proposal for a universal health care system.

New Business Item 90

Adopted As Amended

Given NEA’s policy of fighting racism, and the current state of racial affairs within this great nation, it is imperative that NEA actively support and promote, using existing resources, such as Teaching Tolerance, Facing History and Ourselves, and Rethinking Schools, that describe and deconstruct the systemic proliferation of a White supremacy culture and its constituent elements of White privilege and institutional racism, in order to create equitable outcomes for people of all colors, languages, and ethnic backgrounds. Additionally, the NEA will encourage its affiliates to do the same.

New Business Item 113

Defeated

NEA will call for members to engage in a national day of action, to be developed collectively by members within each state, on May 1, 2019, to demand the public schools and colleges our communities deserve.

NEA will inform state affiliates, locals and rank and file members of this call and encourage state affiliates to organize around state specific demands that are of most immediate concern to membership.

NEA will promote the action through social media, press releases, and within its publications.

NEA will provide – in the form of toolkits for locals to begin the work of building capacity for the action and, in those places where NEA organizers are already active – they will have building capacity for the National Day of Action as a goal for their 2018/2019 work.

New Business Item 119

Referred to the Appropriate Committee (This aimed at Lily Garcia’s rigging for Clinton. The referral means nothing will come of it).

The RA directs NEA to make endorsements for political candidates at the national level through direct membership vote only.

New Business Item 122

Adopted As Amended

The RA directs NEA to establish a voluntary $3.00 (or more) membership donation to establish a fund to support statewide work actions and/or strikes such as in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona, and North Carolina. NEA will work with local and state affiliates to develop and promote a process to transmit these funds to NEA for disbursement.

The full list of NBI’s, etc., is here https://ra.nea.org/business-items/?type=nbi

The AFT convention followed NEA’s on July 13. Only two things of interest were reported to me by AFT friends.

Hillary Clinton was an invited, keynote speaker. Many emails arrived about that outrage.

Secondly, Mike Antonucci picked up on the passage of a motion that could, only could, lead to a disaffiliation of AFT with the umbrella of unions, the corrupt AFL-CIO. This may be a post-Janus dues-save move, or not.

Next Shoes to Drop?

Will the school worker strike wave of the spring resume in the fall? More importantly, will that strike wave link with advance forms of class consciousness?

After all, the core issue of our time is the reality of color-coded inequality and the promise of perpetual war met by the potential of a mass, integrated, Class Conscious, social movement for equality.

Already, school workers in Los Angeles, members of UTLA, a merged NEA and AFT local, have voted in favor of a strike–but when?

Washington state educators threaten a strike before the start of school–incidentally, the best time for a strike as parents have not completed travel schedules and caring educators have not so fall in love with their kids that they are reluctant to strike, and want to hurry back to work.

It is entirely possible for masses of people to strike, yet be absent of any profound sense of class consciousness.

For brevity alone, I will define that as the mass recognition of class warfare on an international scale; the determination that working people have opposing interests to their bosses in industry, finance, agriculture, etc., as well as the state they rule.

How that is achieved, transcending for example the Identity World which elevates race, national language, sexuality, etc., above class, remains a mystery.

History demonstrates over and again, patriotic workers go on strike waving American flags who, later, identify with their employers and nations—and go to war for them, murdering other workers.

On the electoral front, Alexandria Casio-Cortez defeated an entrenched Democratic incumbent who, incidentally, was backed by both the AFT and the AFL-CIO.

Once again, the empire subsumes liberalism: both Casio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders issued mourning statements backing the war hawk, and war criminal, John McCain. Those two illustrate the fact of Republicans and Democrats: two heads of the same snake.

Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Galium won the Florida Democratic Party governor’s nomination. NEA had promoted Gwen Graham as the “Public Education Dream Candidate,” and lost. More than $100 million went into a primary race. It’s unclear what NEA’s wasted share was.

However, the huge NEA Orange County, Orlando, Florida unit is collapsing, in such turmoil that one of the biggest NEA locals played only a minor role.

NEA and AFT mis-leaders want nothing to do with strikes which could upend their November ballot plans–really an indication of their cowardice rather than their tactical foresight.

The Madness

Now, I speculate. A mass hysterical conversion crisis is the transference of mental disorders to the physical activity of many, many people.

Some readers may remember the New England girls who exhibited virtually the same bizarre hand gestures and body movements over a considerable period of time.

I’d carry that forward to Catholics attending mass, or buying dispensations; Pentacostals handling snakes, Creationists attending Creationist Colleges; Comic-Con; those hundreds of thousands who attend the San Diego Mira-Mar Air Show and hold their babies aloft, cheering the closing “Wall of Fire,” a massive series of napalm explosions; adult football fans who dress-up in team uniforms and fight one another; the human metronomes pulling levers in the thousands of casinos in the US, and stock market investors.

However, in the political world, I believe the Occupy Movement–which never occupied anything significant and was quickly swept into the electoral world, the subsequent Sanders outpouring, the completely vanished anti-war movements, Black Lives Matter with its leading corporate sponsors, of course working class Trump supporters, and the Identity politics hucksters selling psychologized tribal hokum represent parallel forms of mass hysteria.

Add that most Americans have no sense of history, lack the ability to determine why things are as they are, and thus make repeatedly bad decisions about what to do–in war, at work, and at home. In these instances, for the most part, I blame the schools.

What is the material basis of these apparitional and counterfeit movements?

The Rule of Finance

Finance capital now dominates the US capitalist state.

Evidence lies in the 2008 bailouts. Finance capital was gifted somewhere between $12.9 trillion (Bloomberg) and $20 trillion (Nomi Prins). Nobody went to jail.

Industrial capital picked up hundreds of billions, perhaps close to one trillion dollars, and now the Feds are prosecuting Chrysler execs for corrupting UAW officers who are in jail. Volkswagen was prosecuted for gaming its emissions system, and executives will be jailed.

It is unclear how much agricultural capital grabbed, but in common fashion, big fish at little fish. With a drought in the Dakotas and Midwest, small farms and ranches collapsed, to be picked up by the big owners. Now, cowboys sweep up in 7-11s.

This must have a psychological impact on every element of every class–especially after the collapse of the world economy.

The Material World of Brain Work

Jamie Dimon at JP Morgan Chase got richer. He brought home $30 million in 2017, and complained. Importantly, he could be more confident. Regulators, those that still exist, and Congress informed the bankers that, since there are fewer but bigger banks now, they are all too big to fail–again.

The banks have no qualms about honesty, in contrast to what I hope is at least a few Americans.

The bankers, in exchange for the bailouts, promised to promote reasonable regulations (nearly all gone by 2018); to not take big bonuses (see Dimon) and to offer people reasonable loans.

When inequality exists at levels of never before in the US, banks are not giving loans to people who cannot repay–except students and, young, they can be on the hook for decades.

So, in finance, banks hoard cash–promote stock buy backs which produces nothing of value but casino money for stockholders. They’re trapped in a brewing crisis of overproduction.

While worry about inequality litters life at the top–fearing food riots and more–it remains that the military has not cracked, could be mobilized against the populace if necessary, if only briefly, and the mercenary companies, whose numbers are secret, could be marshaled too.

That said, there is no organized left to confront capital in the US. They know that.

I believe finance capitalists now care for nothing but the nearest dime. They’re short-termers. They suffer patriots as useful fools.

They differ from old-time industrial capitalists, and agricultural capitalists who looked to a fairly distant future, built plants, built massive food reserves like the Imperial Valley and Central Valley in California.

Finance capitalist have no desire to create, or exploit to create, lasting value. Rather, they live on fantasized value–that casino economy.

It also may have (I speculate) an impact on masses of other people who cannot be seen as beneficiaries of any form of capital.

With at least 2/3 of the US economy wrapped in consumerism, the notions of solidarity that work in a factory or field inherently creates, is set aside for the “I will game you,” outlook on both sides of the counter.

This may explain some of the rushes to bogus “movements,” like Occupy Wall Street and the other hysterics described above—and those 6000 school workers who ignored perpetual war at the NEA and AFT conventions.

Thus concludes my speculation.

One last repetitive thought.

What and Where? Vacation is Over!

The core issue of our time is the reality of perpetual war and booming color coded inequality met by the potential of a mass, class conscious activist movement for upending things are as they and creating a social system rooted in mutual self-interest–a revolution.

Two key places to begin: schools and the sites they feed, like the military.

Good luck to our side.

 

 

 

Rich Gibson is professor emeritus at San Diego State. He now teaches in a community college, for fun. With perhaps five others, he is a co-founder of what is now the largest local in the UAW, Local 6000, state workers not auto. It’s corrupted to the core. He is also a co-founder of the Rouge Forum, an education-based organization of, mostly, school workers, professors, students, and community people. The RF insists on the centrality of class war and direct action, but has no line and no dues.

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