Magazine article In These Times

Talking Union

Magazine article In These Times

Talking Union

Article excerpt

IN THESE TIMES STAFF WRITER Sady Doyle and I spoke with CTU President Karen Lewis. Here is some of what she had to say:

Where does this idea that teachers are the root of the problem originate?

The United States is almost back to the levels of income inequality and distribution that helped precipitate the Great Depression. So how do the people who are in charge continue to be in charge? One of the easiest ways is to start scapegoating the people who could actually perform the critical analysis of what is going on.

Then you have people making policies who don't send their kids to public school, and who didn't go themselves, and who have some sort of mythical vision in their brains about what innercity schools are. I'm sick of other people thinking that they know what goes on in classrooms who have never been, as I like to say, on this side of the desk.

Why do people seem to have so much trouble with democracy?

Because nobody knows how to practice it anymore. Most organizations that are supposed to be democratic aren't. There is always leadership control and people's egos involved. But when people are part of the process, they feel a whole lot better about how things go. Certainly our union wasn't democratic [before the 2010 election of Lewis' reform caucus] and that was one of our goals, to change this into a democratic union that is responsive to its members. I trust our membership, totally. And when you trust your membership, good things happen.

What lesson could other union leaders learn from the CTU? …

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