Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, took to Reddit to discuss the federation, her salary and public sector unions. Reddit's Ask Me Anything ("AMA,") is a popular feature where anonymous users can pose questions to notable people.
Weingarten was writing from the back of a tour bus between stops in Florida, where she is campaigning for President Obama. Here are a few highlights:
bobman15: I hear a lot of people slamming teachers unions because of how easy it is to get tenure and how hard it is to fire bad teachers. Are they correct or not and why?
Teacher unions represent teachers. And it’s management (e.g. principals, school boards, superintendents) who hire and evaluate teachers and grant tenure – not teachers unions...Tenure should be about fairness and not an excuse for managers not to manage or an inadvertent cloak of incompetence.
fejorama: FDR warnd against allowing government employees to unionize, because of the large potential for a conflict of interest. Why do you believe he was incorrect?
This isn’t what FDR said. The letter in question is here: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=15445. People...quote it out of context...He was in favor or workplace representations but worried about strikes. On this issue, before there were public sector unions in places like Ohio, there actually were more strikes than there were afterwards.
Steelchicken: Your salary last year was $407,323, yes?
My salary last year was about $360k. That's about 3.5 times more than what my salary would have been as a NYC school teacher under the last contract I negotiated before I became AFT's President. I love my job. I love representing educators. And I think that teachers should be making a lot more than they currently make.
And btw, in the corporate world, salaries for CEOs are not 3 to 5 times what their employees make. It's hundreds of times more.
Miami_Metro: How do you justify what the Chicago union did in asking for more benefits on top of their overwhelmingly great salary and benefits while children are forced to stay at home or be loose on the streets, not doing constructive things?
No one wanted a strike. And no one strikes without cause. And no one wants to inconvenience parents. But I think its important to note that the settlement itself called for all the lost learning time to be made up, and that will happen. As important, the parents supported the teachers in the strike (one poll said 2/3...did) and many were on the picket line or at rallies with our members.
That’s because while teachers in Chicago were fighting for good conditions for themselves, they were also fighting to give parents more voice in how class size was determined; for the district to rehire 600 art, music and PE teachers; and for kids to have textbooks on day one. They were fighting to see that needed services were provided. To the extent the strike was successful, making common cause with parents and community played a major role in that.
Weingarten finished, saying: "Let me leave you with this - Public education is not a spectator sport – we need participation and further investment to ensure that all kids succeed."