Listen to Joan Baez sing “Joe Hill,” and get a little choked up and shed a tear or two.
|“The copper bosses killed you, Joe,
They shot you, Joe,” says I.
“Takes more than guns to kill a man,”
Says Joe, “I didn’t die,”
Says Joe, “I didn’t die.”And standing there as big as life
And smiling with his eyes
Says Joe, “What they forgot to kill
Went on to organize,
Went on to organize.”
“Joe Hill ain’t dead,” he says to me,
For me, the lesson of the Chicago strike and the resistance in New York City and increasingly across the nation is embodied in the mournful, exhilarating labor classic,
“What they forget to kill went on to organize.”
I was standing on 45th Street in a torrential rainstorm waiting for the teachers to join the Labor Day parade. The marshal, a young kid with plenty of tattoos and an iron worker was on his walkie …,” Just ten more minutes,” he told us. “You teachers do a great job … I see you all over the place..,” and followed up with a derisive gesture and unkind comments directed at our mayor.
This past May-June scores of parents gathered at UFT headquarters,
“Parents need a place to be educated about what’s going on in the school system,” said Lynette Bradshaw, whose son attends STAR Early College Middle School Academy in Brooklyn.
She received that information at the UFT-supported Parent Academy, a five-week training program for parents that was held on Saturdays from May 5 through June 2 at UFT headquarters.
In October hundreds of parents will gather on a Saturday and attend numerous workshop, anti-bullying, gangs, the special education reforms, topics selected by a parent committee. Similar workshops will take place across the city, not organized by the Department of Education, organized by the United federation of Teachers.
Have a question about your homework? – call “Dial a Teacher,” once again, run by the teachers union.
Attend a school board meeting, a public hearing, your school’s parent meeting, and, yes, you’ll find union members handing out flyers and testifying.
Changing opinions and building support in a community or across a city is hard work and happens one person at a time.
TV infomercials are useful and hugely expensive, it’s those thousands upon thousands of man-women hours spent at hundreds of meeting over months and years that build support, that builds a movement
The Chicago teachers spent a year doing the hard work – meeting with parents and community members in their own neighborhoods … organizing…
Mayor Emanuel may have the bully pulpit of the mayoralty, he may have the editorial support of the print media, and he lost the struggle in the streets.
The strike is over, over the next days and weeks and months the realities will set in. We gained respect, we fought off a vengeful mayor, have we righted the ship?
We are for a better school system, we are for reducing poverty, and we are for a more meaningful voice for teachers.
How do we get there?
When Weingarten talks about solution-driven unionism she is talking about specific programs – concrete, feet on the ground programs with measurable outcomes.
… across the country, in places big and small, America’s teachers are leading a movement away from finger-pointing and polarization and toward advancing solutions that help our students and our public schools succeed and our communities thrive.
From overcoming the effects of poverty on children’s education to helping teachers master the instructional shifts required by ambitious new academic standards, some of the country’s most pressing challenges are being met with what I call “solution-driven unionism.”
Reconnecting McDowell is a broad-based coalition to resuscitate one of the poorest counties in the nation.
In New York City the UFT in collaboration with a number of community organizations has created a community schools project.
Under the plan, Lutheran HealthCare, the Children’s Aid Society and other current and new providers will work with six schools to help make the schools into community “hubs” where children and their families have access to health and dental clinics, youth development activities, tutoring, counseling programs, health education programs and social services.
The next step, in New York and Chicago and other urban centers is unions sitting at the table and planning with schools boards and city administrations: programs to address the deficiencies in high poverty schools.
I hear teachers whisper, “There’s nothing you can do … it’s the homes, it’s the gangs, it’s the neighborhoods … until we solve poverty you can’t expect progress in schools.”
It drives me nuts.
In the poorest districts there are successful schools – they are successful because the parents, teachers and school leaders have created programs and policies that are working for the kids in their building.
In many areas across the nation teacher organizing efforts have turned parents away from administrations with narrow testing-charter schools agendas.
They look to teachers and their unions.
We must accept the challenge, we must search out the best and brightest and most innovative within our ranks – we must create solutions – side by side with parents and communities and the elected officials who chose to join us.