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"Lost" in D.C.

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Wow! There's no reason to watch "Lost" when you've got the D.C. contract situation, which is quickly becoming as byzantine and bizarre as the popular TV program.


DCPS officials have detailed Washington Teachers' Union Vice President Saunders back to his school over some kind of paperwork snafus with the leave of absence union officials take when they work full time for the union. The rumors are flying fast and furious about who's to blame, with Saunders and others claiming that WTU President George Parker and D.C. Chancellor Michelle Rhee are both behind the transfer.

Though you wouldn't know it from most of the mainstream media coverage, the debate about this contract isn't really about the union vs. the management, but about a divide within the WTU. Saunders has basically accused Parker of being willing to give away the farm in the contract negotiations. Where Parker was at least initially receptive to the pay plan proposed by Rhee, Saunders has accused Rhee of trying to "gentrify" the schools.

The two men differ on other issues, too: Parker has acknowledged that administrative D.C. rulings have greatly reduced the importance of seniority. Saunders disagrees.

One can only imagine how irritating this must be to AFT leader Randi Weingarten, who's apparently been looped into a lot of this. Both she and Rhee say they're trying to establish a premier education system in D.C.

What's next? A polar bear?

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So, can you fill us in on why Rhee was so fervent in undercutting reformers in the union? Has she really learned? Not that it matters, but if she’s changed, has she grown?

It doesn’t really matter if Rhee has had a true change of heart if she’s willing to negotiate in good faith.

That brings me back to your post on Brad Jupp. Now he’s the type of leader we need! People should remember his “eight considerations regarding unions:”

1. The union won’t sell it, although it will be thoughtful and provocative in analyzing it.

2. The union can help explore tough topics. It is not easy, but it will help people think together.

3. Union leaders are qualified leaders, not enemies.

4. The union is in touch with its members “worst fears, and best hopes.”

5. It is the union that will guarantee the completion of the project. Denver has had five superintendents since performance based evaluation was begun, and most were lukewarm about completing the project.

6. Unions engage in ongoing communication with their members, thus providing feedback.

7. Unions ensure high-quality evaluation. They do not do so because they are evaluators, but because they know that they are not and, thus, welcome third party input.

8. Some may not like what they hear, but unions are the experts on wages, benefits, and work conditions. He gave an example of a cryptic comment of the sort that should never be ignored. When asked about the size of her bonus, one veteran said that she had just received her “22 years worth of Thanksgiving turkeys.” In other words, it was about time that she started to receive some respect.

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