Weingarten Tells WTU Members to Play Nice
American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten appealed to Washington teachers yesterday evening to stay together as she and their union tried to negotiate a new contract with the District.
"The thing that most disturbs me is in-fighting in the membership," she told a Washington Teachers' Union (WTU) reception honoring union stewards and teacher leaders at the L'Enfant Plaza Hotel.
Weingarten, the head of WTU's 3.5 million-member national parent organization who has intervened in the talks, was responding to tensions within union leadership over president George Parker's leadership. Some activists are not happy that Parker has allowed Weingarten a role, and he has most recently taken heat for not acting to head off the reassignment of the union's number two leader, general vice president Nathan Saunders, back to teaching duties.
Saunders charges that Parker and the District colluded in an attempt to neutralize a persistent critic of both the union and management. Parker's supporters say Saunders heads a small group of obstructionists who want to derail approval of a new contract at any cost.
Weingarten, calling for peace, began her remarks by giving Parker a hug. "And if Nathan were here, I'd hug him too," she said.
She acknowledged that District teachers have been the object of virtually every dubious reform idea that bubbles up, and that they inevitably get blamed for disappointing results. But she urged them to stay strong until they can win a contract that guarantees due process for educators and is not "pitting teacher against teacher."
"Thank you very much for doing God's work," she said.
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