A Billboard in Times Square

January 25, 2014 — 5 Comments

by Patrick Walsh, Chapter Leader, PS/ MS 149, Harlem

For the second time in weeks the American public has been presented with an ad attacking The United Federation of Teachers, OUR union. The first attack appeared in a full page ad in the New York Times and, the second on nothing less than a billboard in Times Square.  Both ads were created by the same ersatz organization — The Center For Union Facts which is, in fact, a public relations firm — and both traffic the same lies and distortions: that AFT president Randi Weingarten “protects bad teachers “ and “ opposes reforms that would improve our kids’ education.”

The “reform” alluded to in the ad is merit pay, perhaps the most discredited of all discredited “reform” notions as it has been tried, and it has failed in various parts of the country for over a century.  There is plenty of data to back that up, and it is almost certain that the writers of the ad are aware of this fact:  merit pay does not lead to improved educational outcomes (see this study from the RAND corporation for one example from New York, out of many nationally).

It is even more certain, unfortunately, that most citizens are not aware of the experiments in which merit pay has failed. And, after ten years or more of the most sustained attack on teachers in American history, citizens may likely view the idea of merit pay as reasonable and fair, and thus view and opposition to it as selfish if not venal.  Who could blame them?

Given the river of teacher bashing that has taken over almost all forms of media,  we cannot reasonably expect the general public to know or view the idea of merit pay any differently.   And that’s the point.

The ad, that is, needs to be seen as another billionaire backed exercise in the dark arts of perception management. As such, the ad has nothing to do with either merit pay, or the person of Randi Weingarten (who, admittedly, many of us have serious problems with) or with the AFT.  The ad is an attack on the existence of unionism in itself and all that comes with it:  rights, solidarity, and a mechanisms that strive to provide justice.

There are moments in life in which we must set aside our differences to protect the institutions which, at the end of the day,  are societies only real hopes of  a decent and dignified  life.  This is one of them.   We must all, in any way we can,  reach out of our circles and educate as many people as we can to the truth behind this  repugnant campaign.

To that end, I proposed the following resolution at the January 15, 2014 UFT Delegate Assembly:

WHEREAS the anti-union billionaire Rick Berman has erected a 5-story billboard attacking the AFT, be it

RESOLVED, that the UFT will mobilize its membership for a rally in Times Square to educate the public and defend our union and the dignity of our profession.

The resolution was voted down but seemed to garner a significant percentage of supporters as well as vocal support from President Mulgrew who asked me to speak with Leroy Barr at the end of the DA.  Leroy has since contacted me and stated that the union is concentrating on spreading the truth about Berman via social media, sharing articles like this one from “Crooks and Liars.” and asked me to spread the word in doing the same. This I agreed to do but, sadly, they will not be supporting a protest to educate the general public.

These views are Mr. Walsh’s and may or may not represent the official position of the MORE caucus

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5 responses to A Billboard in Times Square


    Should I understand ( from the last paragraph) that Mr. Mulgrew *supported* your reso. but it was voted down anyway?

    The ways of the UFT are exceedingly strange.


    Let me get this straight…we’ve been without a contract since October 31. 2009 and after all of this time some idiot puts a billboard up in Times Square and we’re to have a rally? So this one anti-union billionaire is going to get us to do something that the other anti-union billionaire couldn’t do. A union shows its merit when it acts like a union and not some public relations firm. This is no different than the pointless ads we run with union dues. Perhaps if our union leaders could get their heads out their asses long enough to see how pointless those campaigns were they will reject this one as well.


    Time for Mulgrew to get on some TV program and have well prepared answers to this nonsense. If he can’t do it find someone you can or quit.


    Great statement Patrick from a true unionist. I wish Patrick or Julie Cavanagh had Mulgrew’s job. If the membership had elected Jeff Kaufman when he ran against Weingarten for UFT local Pres back in 2007 or Kit Wainer when he ran in 2010, we wouldn’t be in nearly the dire straits we find ourselves in today. Let’s build the Movement of Rank and File Educators, unite educators, parents and students and relieve these weak kneed quivering bureaucrats, who won’t even defend themselves let alone the membership, from the stranglehold they maintain over OUR Union! To those retirees who regularly vote for the current leadership, I say wake up, there is no safety with misleaders at the helm of the UFT. The corporate privatizers have pensions in the cross hairs and you need a strong democratic rank and file controlled union as much as the working members do.


      Thanks for the thought
      A correction: James Eterno was the ICE/TJC candidate for UFT President in 2010
      Kit Wainer was the TJC/ICE candidate for UFT President in 2007
      Both are leaders of MORE along with Julie Cavanagh.

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