AFT’s Left Flank Infuriated over Clinton Endorsement

Union leftists are shocked! shocked! that the teacher union elite did not confer with them before anointing Hillary Clinton as Democratic presidential pick.

The education and mainstream media were whooping it up last week after a cadre of teacher union members laid into the American Federation of Teachers for its endorsement of Hillary Clinton as Democratic nominee for president. The headlines screamed:

The AFT’s Endorsement of Hillary Clinton Is an Insult to Union Democracy

Clinton Endorsement, Wrong For Our Union

Teachers Say No Freaking Way to AFT Endorsement of Hillary Clinton

(Mike Antonucci has a bunch more here.)

Seems that the union members are apoplectic for a couple of reasons. First, they said the announcement came too early. The angry teachers pointed to a general agreement among AFL-CIO labor leaders that none of its unions would make an endorsement before July 30th, after all candidates were properly vetted on a variety of issues. And perhaps more importantly, the aggrieved felt slighted because they were not consulted before the Clinton coronation. AFT president Randi Weingarten dismissed the dissidents’ anger by explaining that the early endorsement would enable AFT “to help Hillary shape a powerful platform and focus the conversation on the issues that matter to our members….” Weingarten also declared that AFT conducted a phone survey that contacted more than a million members, soliciting their input.

But hardcore unionistas weren’t buying anything Weingarten said. As EAG’s Kyle Olson reports, a tweet sent out by a teacher claimed the “poll that endorsed Clinton surveyed 683 of the 1.6 mil members. 0.04%.” Another tweet asserted that AFT “used telephone town halls and a web-based survey, I didn’t even know existed.” One teacher simply called the endorsement “BS.” Also, over 4,500 teachers have signed a Change.org petition demanding that AFT withdraw its endorsement.

At the core of the teachers’ anger was that they saw the endorsement as a bargain between two political cronies. Weingarten and Clinton are longtime buds, their relationship beginning early in the millennium when Clinton was a New York senator and Weingarten ran New York City’s teachers union. Also, Weingarten sits on the board of Priorities USA Action, a pro-Clinton super PAC. There are rumors that if Hillary makes it to the White House, Randi would become Secretary of Education. (Make up your own fox/henhouse type joke here.)

Many of the dissenting teachers also see Clinton as a one percenter, while viewing socialist Bernie Sanders as much more “pro-union.” (Maybe one day these unhappy union members will wake up to the fact that Randi with her half-a-million plus income is a one percenter too. Maybe.)

But the real story here is that union lefties have awakened to something those of us on the right have known for years. Union leaders don’t give a rat’s derriere about the political leanings and desires of their members. Mike Antonucci reports that an internal National Education Association survey shows that its members “are slightly more conservative (50%) than liberal (43%) in political philosophy.” Former NEA president Reg Weaver has said publicly that his union breaks down as one-third Democrat, one-third Republican and one-third “Other.” And at a panel in which I was a participant in 2013, California Teachers Association president Dean Vogel said that his union membership is 65 percent Democrat and 35 percent Republican.

With all those right-of-center union members, you’d think that the unions would at least spend some money on candidates and causes that would make them happy. But as I have written about ad nauseum, they don’t. For example, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, in 2012, AFT spent $2,110,529 on Democratic candidates for office and just $7,046 on Republicans.

The NEA is not much better. From 1989-2014, the union sent only 4 percent of its donations to Republicans, and rest assured that the few bucks they tossed at the right never wound up anywhere near any Tea Party types. Additionally, over the years NEA has lavished gifts on such leftist stalwarts as MALDEF, Planned Parenthood, People for the American Way, Media Matters, ACORN, Al Sharpton’s National Action Network and the Center for American Progress.

Now that many left-leaning teachers are having a needed “Aha!” moment, perhaps they will realize the only way to make their union truly democratic is by not making teachers pay to play. Without forced dues, the union would have to be more solicitous of its members. As things stand now, unions don’t have to care what their members think…about anything. So I welcome the newly baptized to the world that those of us right-of-center folks have inhabited for years. Now a little love for the Friedrichs Ten, maybe?

Larry Sand, a former classroom teacher, is the president of the non-profit California Teachers Empowerment Network – a non-partisan, non-political group dedicated to providing teachers and the general public with reliable and balanced information about professional affiliations and positions on educational issues. The views presented here are strictly his own.

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