|Bill Gates addressed the 2010 Convention|
There are several important things are worth noting as the meeting gets underway. First is the setting in the Motor City which has become disaster capitalism's new great laboratory for corporate-style reform and union busting. Michigan's Tea-Party governor is putting entire cities under corporate control, disbanding elected local governments and turning entire school districts over the private management companies.
Detroit has become New Orleans without the storm and there's the growing possibility of a teachers strike now that Emergency Manager Roy Roberts announced he was imposing a contract to replace a deal that expired on June 30, using powers afforded his office through state law, Public Act 4. Following her speech to the convention, AFT Pres. Randi Weingarten plans to lead a march of the 3,000 delegates over to Roberts' office, demanding an opening up of negotiations.
Then there is the anticipation of Diane Ravitch's keynote speech. Remember, two years ago the keynote was delivered by Bill Gates who left through the back door after his speech to avoid any confrontations with protesting teacher activists. Expect Ravitch to set a completely different tone of resistance which hopefully will be carried back to AFT locals.
Third is the presence of the Chicago delegation, led by CTU President Karen Lewis. The CTU has now become a reluctant but powerful symbol of fight-back unionism at a time when national leaders are counseling conciliation and going along with many corporate reform plans in order to get along. Cleveland and New Haven are among the latest examples where AFT leaders are accepting teacher evaluation and pay, based on student test scores while producing little in return for teachers.
Another indication of the changing mood within the union has been its promotion of the national resolution on high-stakes testing, which puts the union on record as favoring a stronger stance against "the growing fixation on high-stakes testing."