NJEA, AFT: How about a robo-call apology for backing Cory Booker?

NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer
NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer

The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA) spends a fortune of members’ dues money on what loosely could be called “communications”–advertising, promotion, public relations, marketing, and other methods of getting its message out. And, last year, it put a lot of that effort behind the election of Cory Booker as United States senator despite Booker’s embrace of ultra-conservative educational policies, including vouchers. You’d think that, this year, it would use the same approach to correct that awful mistake–but it hasn’t.

Nearly two years ago, Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, stopped by Newark long enough to help seal a hare-brained, privately-financed merit pay deal between its Newark Teachers Union and Cami Anderson, the dictator personally selected by Booker to make Newark the “charter school capital” of the country. Anderson has used the pact to weaken the NTU and other unions. You’d think that, this year, the NTU would try to recover lost ground to the union-busters–but it hasn’t.

Both unions have ways of communicating to its members the sense of its leaders on educational issues. In the past, I have received lectures on bureaucratic procedures aimed at explaining why the NJEA, for example, had to make this decision or that about its views.

“We’re a membership organization,” I’ve been told. “We can’t be far ahead of our membership.”

Please. When NJEA President Wendell Steinhauer spoke on the Statehouse stairs last March, leading the assemblage in chants about “Our schools,” I am sure he didn’t send a message out to the membership asking them for permission to align the NJEA with the anti-Christie struggle in Newark.

But this did happen: When Steinhauer spoke, he created the impression that the state’s largest teachers union would lead the fight against privatization. Similarly, when the NTU got knee-deep into Ras Baraka’s campaign, it gave the implied promise that the struggle of the Newark community also would be  the struggle of Newark’s teachers.

Tomorrow is primary election day. Cory Booker, a member of the ultra conservative E3–Excellent Education for Everyone, a voucher front–is running unopposed in the Democratic primary because Democratic leaders are the worst traitors to an important cause since Quisling. People like Joe DiVincenzo, who stabbed Barbara Buono in the back last year, is on the same line with Booker. All members of the Christie Party.

I don’t know how long it takes to put together a robo-call and get through to the NJEA’s and the NTU’s members. Sounds like it should take only a few hours.

Why can’t we have this call going out from Steinhauer? “My colleagues in the proud teaching profession: Today is a primary election day. Cory Booker, who won his senate seat through the connivance of Gov. Chris Christie, is running unopposed so he can’t lose. But it’s time to show him, the national administration–including Education Secretary Arne Duncan–and Chris Christie that teachers will no longer be used as door mats to have their faces rubbed in the dirt of those who use teachers as scapegoats for the problems of the schools, especially in the inner city. We hope today, when you go to the polls, you vote for whomever you choose–but do not vote for Cory Booker.  If he garners fewer votes than candidates down-ticket, he will appear weak to party bosses. The NJEA regrets its endorsement of an enemy of public education and promises to do better in the future.”

Randi Weingarten owes Newark an apology
Randi Weingarten owes Newark an apology

The AFT  should broadcast a similar robo-call, adding something about the merit-pay provisions–financed by union-hater Mark Zuckerberg–in the NTU contract. Also, with an apology.

I support unions. They may be the last bastions against the encroachment of billionaires who have corrupted the Democratic Party from Obama on down. But, in recent years, they have lost their way. New Jersey unions have played serious games of footsie with Christie, Anderson and, of course, Booker. They rail against charters and privatization and high-stakes testing and Common Core State Standards–but, in fact, the union leadership supported the people who made this all possible. They have been enablers to those who would destroy public education.

If the unions don’t make at least one gesture of independence from the Wall Street Mafia, then they will have lost close to their last measure of credibility among the teachers they represent and the communities in places like Newark and Camden that have come to rely on them.

Vote “No” on Booker and the Democrats for Education Reform. Just write in your name or don’t pull the lever or push the screen to vote for Booker.




  1. The NTU has not endorsed Booker.Also local unions can give money to federal candidates.Booker ruined my city,there is no forgiveness,ever.

    Bob Braun: One of the last stories I worked on before leaving The Star-Ledger was the contract between the NTU and Cami Anderson. I was stunned by it and had a long conversation with Weingarten. She kept saying things like, well, Bob, you know, we have to face the new reality. I never got the chance to write that piece because I left the paper but, despite what I am sure were good intentions by the NTU leadership, Cami used that contract to declare herself a champion of reform throughout the nation–sort of the way Christie used cutting pensions as proof of his bipartisanship skills. Signing that contract enabled her to move recklessly and arrogantly to “One Newark.” Teachers are voters–and many are Democratic voters. I am asking the NTU and the NJEA to say the enabling must stop and it stops by proving Booker is a weak candidate who has no business in the United States senate. Voting for him just because he is the presumptive Democratic candidate turns the franchise into a bad joke.

  2. Weingarten shamelessly neglects to mention that “the new reality” that is crushing the teachers she claims to represents, and that is destroying the public schools, is a product of her “collaboration” – her term, not mine – with the so-called reformers.

  3. The sheep are being blindly led by the wolves. This simply describes the NTU. AFT, and NJEA today.

  4. Rank and file members of the labor movement must start a political movement to launch a political party that represents the 99%. This means developing a program that fights for free public education from preschool through college, health care for all, a jobs program to move towards full employment. The current union bureaucracy has shown it is not capable of doing this.

  5. Maybe they just found a clever way to get Booker out of Newark.

  6. This horse is out of the barn. The Dem. party has been hosed by Christie and Booker is the least objectionable, least threatening African-American in NJ. The rest of the party doesn’t have much the balls to challenge his star power.

    The unions can’t match Koch money and aren’t very good at direct action anymore, primarily because the only thing they have to fight for IS money and we know who has the money.

  7. I don’t think it’s just a question of money…the entire country has moved to the right (despite isolated cases like same-sex marriage) and the unions have been backed into a corner, afraid to sound too “radical” and be labeled “socialist” or worse. However, in cases where the unions have the courage to actually be “radical”, like in Chicago, they often end up winning. So we have to convince unions to “come out of the closet” so to speak and not be afraid to take positions that may seem too controversial. I say let the right wing accuse unions all they want…when unions get their message out without diluting it they have a better chance of winning. Of course, there is also the fact that unions are political animals and we all know that there is a long tradition of unions playing footsie with organized political machines and organized crime and it can be hard to change a leopard’s spots…not meaning that all unions are corrupt necessarily, but they are built on a long tradition of backroom deals which often exclude the rank and file from being truly represented. That’s what Weingarten was doing in Newark and it’s why truly grassroots, radicalized unions are needed – I support philaken’s comments above.

  8. The Union leadership in Newark is as biased and corrupt as the city. How is it possible that a NPS principal can be engaged to a member of the NTU leadership? How is that NOT conflict of interest?

  9. Democratic voters must start a movement to reclaim their political party, by recruiting candidates that represent the 99% and rejecting people who voted to go to war in Iraq, support Nixon’s ‘war on drugs’ in America, demonize whistle-blowers, supported DOMA, refuse to crack down on Wall Street or break up too big to fail’ banks & other corporations.

    Hillary Clinton voted to go to war in Iraq

    Hillary Clinton supports Nixon’s ‘war on drugs’ — which is filling America’s private prisons, but she is against legalizing pot

    Hillary Clinton demonize whistle-blowers, such as Private Manning and Edward Snowden

    Hillary Clinton supported DOMA and she defends the anti-gay law her husband signed

    Hillary Clinton is cozy with Wall Street and it is doubtful she would break up too big to fail’ banks & other corporations, since her husband repealed the Glass–Steagall Act and helped giant corporations that exported jobs.

    Hillary Clinton struggles to make ends meet with $18 million — which is a little unlike America’s middle class working families who try getting by on $50,000 or $35,000 each year.

    Hillary Clinton would have been a great president in 1993, but America’s needs have changed. Our leader should put the GOP in its place rather than accommodating madness and greed, or claiming capitulation as an accomplishment

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