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Detroit: Monstrous Sellout in the Works Tomorrow

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

The leadership of the Detroit Federation of Teachers (AFT) engaged in a systematic effort to demolish the strike which the DFT rank and file made possible.

Now, after two and one half weeks of heroic efforts by school workers who defied court orders, the Governor and Mayor, and attacks from the city's mainstream press, the union bureaucrats announced a tentative agreement (TA) with "Non-wage concessions." There is no such thing as a non-wage concession, that's a terrible lie; all things are interrelated in a contract, but read the Detroit News report (below) for yourself.

The package the DFT bosses have accepted, and hope to ram down the throats of the teachers, is in essence the same package that could have easily been accepted before the strike began. It is very close to the sellout that I predicted in Counterpunch two weeks ago.

Just as the AFT has worked hard with the Business Roundtable and the US Chambers of Commerce to organize the racist decay of urban education all over the US, and has backed the high-stakes standardized tests that now propel that wreckage, so the DFT is working closely with Detroit Democratic party elites, who have controlled the city for decades, and economic powers in the Detroit City Club, to systematically ruin kids' education in a city where much of schooling is simply pre-prison and pre-military training. Once, Detroit was the finest education system in the US.

What did the DFT do to prepare for this strike, which was easy to foresee? Nothing, but they did buy a $5 million building, in 2006, while thousands of their members were being laid off.

This has been a vicious struggle, though the battle is veiled by (probably true) claims of civility between the DFT bosses and the Administration.

Principals were instructed to make enemies lists of activist teachers, and have done so. The press threatened teachers with bad MEAP scores (the state test that measures race and parental income) as MEAP time is soon. DFT supports high-stakes testing, and says nothing about the layoffs that are attached to the scores. Honest and brave educators were urged to picket empty buildings, wearing them down, while they could have been walking door to door with talking points about the strike. The vaunted power of the Michigan AFL-CIO, the UAW, and the Michigan Education Association (which represents the suburbs) did nothing at all when, with a single stroke, they could have shut down "Union Town" for a day, and won the strike.

At base, elites from all sides, the Democrats (Granholm, Levin, Kilpatrick, etc), the rich, and the DFT, conspired to deal a near death blow to educators, parents and kids. Every branch of government operated as a weapon of wealth.

Public education in Detroit is truly balancing on a tight-rope. Yet the DFT is going to try to mislead school workers to focus on an upcoming vote to make change in their lives. The educators have already shown that the center of their power is at work, taking control of their workplaces, proving that the value in school is created collectively by the rank and file. The Democratic party has already shown their loyalties.

The DFT has a meeting scheduled tomorrow. One can only hope it gets out of hand, that the DFT bosses are thrown from the platform and the TA with them. That, however, requires organization and a system of communications, which only exists in fledgling form. The 1999 wildcat, though, was inspired by a similar move.

An injury to one really does just precede an injury to all. If this contract is ratified in Detroit, not only are other urban educators going to see it on their bargaining tables; it will become a model for the suburbs as well. If health benefits are eroded in Detroit, everyone else is sure to follow.

There are many lessons to be learned from the Detroit strike, particularly that the law pales in the face of direct action from masses of people who withdraw their labor and, on the other hand, that the leadership of the unions is simply another tier of opposition to the interests of not only kids, and parents, and all school workers, but reason itself.

And we can learn that justice demands organization, which is why the Rouge Forum was organized. www.rougeforum.org

However, right now, it is critical that this criminal sellout not be allowed to stand, nor the people who created it.

Spread the word, please.

— Rich Gibson
Rouge Forum




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