Right winger. One percenter. Anti-democracy. These are the charges that Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, levels at her own members as well as supporters of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, the case coming before the Supreme Court this week. Yes, the AFT president actually hurls these insults at veteran teachers who have devoted their lives to children but happen to see things differently than she does.
Those evil one percenters
Randi Weingarten’s individual salary and perks put her comfortably in or around the top 1 percent, but she still, quite remarkably, launches vicious attacks on those who reside up there with her. The only one percenters that seem to get a pass by the AFT president are those who donate money to her organization and to the candidates that she supports.
And her organization, coupled with the NEA, has $2.2 billion to spend each year so those who oppose the union agenda find themselves in a real life David and Goliath fight for survival. Randi, their alleged ‘leader’ uses her wealth of resources and national influence to shut down dissent within her ranks and to delegitimize the voices of teachers who have real concerns; in the case being heard in the highest court this week, those concerns are about a teacher’s fundamental right to free speech and freedom of association.
Though Randi is usually a vocal proponent of the rights of the people, her support for liberty evaporates in a New York minute if it’s not in line with her version of who is and is not entitled to the freedoms she so regularly claims to embrace.
Perhaps former Clinton education advisor Andy Rotherham, summed it up best after the Vergara ruling when he cited an old legal adage: “if you have the law on your side argue the law, if you don’t have the law argue the facts, and if you don’t have either then pound the table.” The problem is that in pounding the table, Randi and her allies are pounding on the rights of the very people they claim to represent: students in Vergara and now teachers in Friedrichs.
Protecting the working people?
In the context of the Friedrichs case, Randi’s ‘go to’ sound bites tend to rail against attacks on working people.
Thanks to all those who joined our call with @Ed4Excellence tonight to learn more about #Friedrichs and this 1% attack on working ppl.
— Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten) January 6, 2016
But no matter how much Randi and the AFT leadership wish it weren’t so, the plaintiffs in the Friedrichs case are working people. They are teachers. And they just want to be freed from paying for something they never asked for, freed from spending their money on an organization that they see as inherently political in everything it does, and freed from feeling like their hard-earned money is being used to push policies with which they fundamentally disagree.
So despite all of Randi’s tweets, op-eds, or impassioned moments behind the mic impugning Friedrichs plaintiffs and their supporters as ‘one percenters’, ‘right wingers’, and ‘attackers of working people’, she remains light years away from the truth. Supporters of Friedrichs are democrats, republicans, educators, law students, one percenters, and people struggling to get by. But despite their many differences, they share the belief that it is fundamentally wrong and unconstitutional that teachers be forced to financially underwrite an organization with which they disagree.
Come on Randi. You of all people should believe that teachers have rights too.