Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Has Randi Weingarten and the UFT Fallen Prey to Corporate Style Short Term Gains?

David Zweig

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It’s a truism of the business world — and a concern — that many CEOs often care more about maximizing quarterly profits or, more directly, raising their company’s share price, at the expense of setting their business on a long term successful course.

I find myself often thinking of Randi Weingarten’s scorched earth advocacy for teachers in this same regard. From the very beginning of the pandemic to this day, Weingarten has very savvily sowed constant doubt about the safety of schools, and in the process lobbied, with a large degree of success, for outsized concessions from the government and local districts for teachers unions.

Just like the corporations that enjoy a rise in share price at the end of a quarter, even if it’s to the detriment of a company’s overall financial health, the UFT, under Weingarten’s leadership, and by default many local teachers unions, are gaining the spoils of this advocacy, so far to the tune of $122 billion, (and thousands of schools remaining closed, with millions of children still in remote or so-called hybrid learning).

But long term this strategy may backfire, at minimum from a public relations standpoint. Increasingly, this advocacy makes teachers appear selfish and cynical to a segment of the population, which ultimately does damage to teachers’ reputations overall. Moreover, an increasing number of people who traditionally have been ambivalent about, or even flat out against public funds flowing to charters and private schools have begun to see the issue in a different light, now that they feel betrayed by traditional public schools.

Teachers have been prioritized in much of the country for vaccination, yet many unions have argued that vaccination is still not enough. As I wrote about for WIRED, to many bioethicists and epidemiologists, let alone regular people, this breaks a social compact. Weingarten and a few others argued that the science isn’t definitive yet on whether people can still transmit after vaccination, and that teachers, even post vaccination, could theoretically put family members at risk. But the evidence from several months ago has only strengthened that this is a largely unfounded concern. While the risk of transmission is not zero, it is exceedingly…

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David Zweig

Author of INVISIBLES. Forthcoming: AN ABUNDANCE OF CAUTION (2022), and MERELY PLAYERS (2023?). I write for @NYMag @TheAtlantic @NYTimes @Wired