How Badass Teachers (BATS) Lost Their Soul;
A Critique By Brian Crowell
My name is Brian Crowell. I am former member of The Research Team of The National Badass Teachers Organization. I am one of the organizing members of the new Badass Teachers of Color Organization. This new organization was founded by 14 members including co founder of BATS, Professor Mark Naison of Fordham University. This critique will be a technical critique of how the policies of BATS is inconsistent with its creation and how its response to the dismal election results forced a split within the organization of BATS. This analysis is not meant for any personal attacks but rather to show a direct conflict in policy prescriptions for current problems facing labor. I will not discuss non progressive views of certain members of BATS, as I think that will dissuade from the current crisis facing American Labor.
Critique 1. The National BATS Organization has no interest in restoring the true left and progressive roots of Labor. When presented with a resolution to restore FDR’s Second Bill of Rights as a primary platform of policy, the resolution was killed in the National BATS
Leadership. Even though the resolution was very popular, and had much input from members of BAT leadership, the Leadership of BATS didn’t “want to offend NEA or AFT” by presenting them with the resolution. Given the election results and the difficult terrain for labor going forward I believe a return to the spirit of FDR is what”s needed to reignite labor. Some in BATS are comfortable with “capitulation” as a political strategy. (See resolution in Appendix 1 below)
Further analysis. The economic condition of many citizens in the United States is beyond dismal. 1 in 30 children in America are homeless while the stock market is at an all time high. Student Loan Debt is at an all time high. Wages have been stagnate for the better part of 2 generations. (See Appendix 2 below) All of these facts have happened under the watchful eye of the unions. African American Veteran Teachers, and teachers as a whole are being forced out of the profession, with many due process rights being stripped away. Logic would suggest that the prescription to address this war on the 99% is the direct mobilization of labor to challenge these problems. However, the BAT Leadership doesn’t want to “offend” the existing leadership of the union community. Therefore, we indeed have a philosophical difference on policy.
Whether its known or not the National NEA and AFT Leadership have a direct relationship with Wall St. This relationship manifests itself in the form of union sponsored credit cards and insurance company products. Let me be clear, I am not opposed to unions making money. What I am opposed to is the high interest on revolving debt and the direct relationship to the corrupt financial institutions who ran our economy into the ground. The 700 billion dollar TARP bailout was the largest example of welfare for financial institutions in the history of America. (See Matt Taibbi; http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/secret-and-lies-of-the-bailout-20130104)
At minimum the “usury relationship” between wall st. and unions should be reconciled via a lower interest rate for members on revolving debt. (See Appendix 3 below). Again how can we as labor get bank reform, (Glass Steagall) if we don’t address the conflicts of interest in our own unions? Again this is a philosophical difference in policy that I would like to highlight.
To conclude, it is clear under the current trajectory that unless a major change in policy in the union leadership is adapted, labor and the middle class will continue to be diminished. Teachers don’t feel enthusiastic about giving their paychecks to unions and be told to feel good about getting steamrolled in elections. Elections have consequences for better or worse. The philosophy of Badass Teachers of Color seeks to harken back to the principles of old labor and apply them to modern difficulties. To pretend that the status quo is above reproach, and fear of offending existing leadership is no path to prosperity for labor.
Appendix 1: Resolution;
In light of the NeoLiberal Economic Policies that openly attack the poor and middle class, The American Federation of Teachers has formally resolved the following and ask The American Federation of Teachers to support the following:
We demand that the American Federation of Teachers adopt the following policies, taken in the spirit of President Franklin Roosevelt’s Economic Bill of Rights:
We demand the right to:
Employment, with a living wage
Food, clothing and leisure
Farmers rights to a fair income
Freedom from unfair competition and monopolies
Consistent with President Franklin Roosevelt’s 2nd Bill of rights, and in the light of current issues facing the nation’s teachers, we also demand the following of our unions and associations:
We Demand that AFT must fight to defend veteran teachers from being forced out of their jobs by administrative harassment.
We Demand that AFT must fight to dramatically increase the number of teachers of color in our classrooms.
We Demand that AFT must stand up as strongly to denounce Democratic politicians who attack teachers and public education as Republican Ones.
We Demand that AFT actively support Constitutional Protections for Migrant and and Documented workers and children.
We Demand that AFT actively organize to unionize retail workers, fast food workers, childcare workers, domestic workers, home care and hospice workers, and to advocate for these workers a living wage.
Consistent with The New Deal Legislation of the 1930’s we Demand that AFT advocate for WPA/TVA work and employment programs to alleviate homelessness and poverty.
We Demand that NEA actively actively engage policy makers to enforce Constitutional Protections for LGBT Citizens.
We Demand that AFT actively pursue policies that protect public education from Unfair Competition from Charter Schools.
We Demand that AFT actively pursue policies that promote Equal Equality and Equal Pay For Women; without compromise.
Consistent with Farming Legislation of the 1930’s, We Demand that AFT pursue policies to promote small and medium size farming in lieu of large agribusiness farming.
Consistent with The Hill Burton Act of 1946, We Demand that AFT pursue policies to fully enact a single payer health care system.
Therefore, be it resolved that BATS vote and stipulate to the above mentioned language. Effective immediately, the terms and goals of this resolution will become codified policies of AFT.
Approved by AFT Executive Committee _________________________________