OpinionUnion Report

Union Report: The 10 Most Memorable Teachers Union Quotes of 2017

By Mike Antonucci | December 19, 2017

(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Teachers union officers and activists had a lot to say in 2017, and others had a lot to say about them. Here are the 10 most memorable teachers union quotes of 2017, in countdown order:

10. “And if they vote, they will lose — they will get slaughtered. It’s not democracy to let them vote. What would be democratic is to let them build their union.” — Kate Bronfenbrenner, director of labor education research at Cornell University’s School of Industrial Labor Relations, commenting on the American Federation of Teachers’s decision to cancel a representation vote at Paul Public Charter School in Washington, D.C. (April 3, The American Prospect)

9. “As long as the teachers union hates him, I’ll support him for governor.” — Richard Riordan, former mayor of Los Angeles, speaking of former L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who once worked for the teachers union but has since gotten on its bad side. (Feb. 17, Los Angeles Times)

8. “[UFT’s ruling Unity Caucus] will come out and call anyone pushing a fragmentation drive real nasty names long before it ever got to the stage where there is a new union. I would expect they would say anyone signing or spreading a petition to make a separate bargaining unit was Hitler, Mussolini, the devil, and maybe Stalin all rolled into one.” — James Eterno, United Federation of Teachers chapter leader, curbing any enthusiasm for the idea of splitting off a high school teachers union from UFT. (Oct. 5, ICEUFT Blog)

7. “Obviously, these charges are based on lies, and they’re using it as a negotiating tool because we’re in bargaining. That is a tactic that unions can use. I personally find it without honor, dishonorable, to use that kind of tactic. But they are within their rights to do that.” — Mike Gandolfo, president of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association in Florida, describing unfair labor practice complaints filed by the union’s own employees against him. (Aug. 18, Tampa Bay Times)

6. “I assure you, in a relatively short period of time, there will be an uprising that will in fact fuel a more progressive future. That’s what’s going to happen. When it happens, we need to have the infrastructure in place to take advantage of it.” — John Stocks, executive director of the National Education Association, during a Sept. 21 speech at the Hayden Lakes Country Club in Idaho.

5. “Be prepared to lose 30%–40% of your membership base. I don’t believe it will go that high in CTA, but we need to be prepared.” — Joe Nuñez, executive director of the California Teachers Association, predicting the consequences if agency fees are eliminated, in a Jan. 29 speech to the union’s State Council.

4. “We know why parents sometimes embrace these voucher schemes. They move their kids to these programs because they want smaller class size, safer environments, and less and more-sensible testing. That’s exactly what we want for public schools.” — Joanne McCall, president of the Florida Education Association, after the state Supreme Court rejected the union’s appeal against Florida’s tuition tax credit program. (Jan. 18, Miami Herald)

3. “As Secretary of Education, would you carry your intent to destroy Detroit Public Schools to all public schools?” One of the American Federation of Teachers’s #Questions4Betsy during Betsy DeVos’s Jan. 17 confirmation hearing.

2. “As England was preparing for invasion during WWII, Winston Churchill said, ‘We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.’ And it is in that vein that we will prepare for the fights to come. … We will fight this battle and, if we persist, our enemies won’t land on our shores. Rather, like England, it will be us who storms across the channel to fight on their turf.” — Martin Messner, secretary-treasurer of New York State United Teachers, comparing the union’s fight to keep agency fees to the Battle of Britain in an April 7 speech to the NYSUT Representative Assembly. Messner resigned his position in November.

1. “The people of Van Wert are proud of their public schools. They’ve invested in pre-K and project-based learning. They have a nationally recognized robotics team and a community school program that helps at-risk kids graduate. Ninety-six percent of students in the district graduate from high school. This community understands that Title I is not simply a budget line but a lifeline. Why I am telling you about this town? Because these are the schools I wanted Betsy DeVos to see — public schools in the heart of the heart of America. … Make no mistake. This use of privatization coupled with disinvestment are only slightly more polite cousins of segregation. We are in the same fight, against the same forces that are keeping the same children from getting the public education they need and deserve.” — Randi Weingarten, American Federation of Teachers president, speaking at the July 20 AFT TEACH conference in Washington, D.C. Of 2,037 students in the Van Wert public schools, just 21 are African-American.

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