Randi on a Tightrope

I’ve been over what a third Bloomberg term would mean for Joel Klein. Of course the larger question is what a third term would mean for Joel Klein’s school reform project. I see two possibilities: One is that Bloomberg wins, keeps Klein, and things continue as they have been. The other possibility is that the arrogance of a third term power grab will so anger legislators in the Albany state capitol that they will kill mayoral control — or so anger voters that they will vote Bloomberg (and by extension Klein) out. 

A person who will play a big role in determining how this swings is Randi Weingarten, the UFT president. Those who follow school politics might expect a teachers union leader to oppose the administration barreling through overhaul after overhaul. That’s not how Randi rolls. Yes, she is relentless in her criticism of Joel Klein, the man much-disliked by her members. But Randi does not just attack; she also tries to work as a partner on school reform. And the man she always publicly declares her partner is Bloomberg.

Given that, it’s no surprise that Randi is walking a tightrope between those boosting Bloomberg and those seeking to block him. Her first statement when the news of Mayor Mike’s ambitions broke was that — unlike Bloomberg — she believes the voters must decide on a third term. (Bloomberg wants to sail over that meddlesome democracy and go through the City Council.) But her statement also said that she opposes term limits and, further, that she is “very concerned about the economy” and “grateful the mayor is willing to step up.” 

Where will she land? The final word won’t come for a week or so. She told the Daily News that she is delaying until her members vote on the question, on October 15. Indeed Randi often holds off on taking a position until her union delegates have voted. But another thing Randi often does is make deals, and it is hard to imagine that she will not try to use this time of vulnerability for Mayor Bloomberg to strike a bargain with him — to pledge some kind of support in exchange for some kind of win. The big question to monitor is: What concession will she get? Maybe some Eduwonk readers have advice for Randi. Send them to me at egreen@post.harvard.edu or write them in the comments.

 ~ Guest blogger Elizabeth Green

5 Replies to “Randi on a Tightrope”

  1. Nice political analysis Elizabeth. Maybe you should multitask and add the City Hall beat to your great education reporting. Here’s what I would say to Randi: Go to King Michael and pledge your fealty in return for the head of Lord Klein.
    Sol Stern

  2. Other than Klein’s shiny scalp, what is there for Randi? Time WAS on her side. Now the clock may be reset. Every time she came to agreement with the mayor and Klein previously, it didn’t end the war. But at least she delivered big raises for her members. Here’s a hot flash for all. There are no more raises to be had for quite some time to come. In fact I don’t see how layoffs can be avoided. The sooner she goes to war, the better. Two fronts: changes in mayoral control through the legislature and the political front.

    Andy Wolf

  3. Does Bloomberg need Randi at all? She can only interfere with his plans with an all-out blitz on the City Council and Bloomberg knows full well she would never do it. As you say, she is a deal maker. If layoffs are coming there will be some dealing going on. Could she come out for a 3rd term? More likely she will sit on the fence.

    But her problem is that the members dislike Bloomberg almost as much as Klein – they are smart enough to see there is no difference at all in policy though the union tries to make Klein the bad guy. Why would Bloomberg sacrifice Klein when he executed Bloomberg’s plan so well? The only issue is whether Klein wants to stay. It wouldn’t be going to far to see Klein leaving and Randi taking credit.

    So she is on a tightrope and has to appear to be willing to throw a roadblock in Bloomberg’s plans to feed the members while obfuscating the issue and really coming down for a 3rd term without appearing to. We know she is against term limits since she can serve as UFT president for life, which that little birdie UFT source might have also told you is what she intends to do.

  4. I agree with Norm. I don’t think Bloomberg needs Randi — I wish I did. I think his PR machine has done a great job encouraging NY Citizenry to be very unsympathetic to teachers and that no one cares what she thinks, except her UFT members. We have to care because she is the person who negotiates for our contracts. I think she’d have more political capital opposing the Mayor’s third term and trying to show that she had a strong and powerful coalition behind her. What do the other union president’s think? Why aren’t they banding together AGAINST this third term? If Randi could bring together hers and the other unions of this city in an effort to fight Bloomberg, she’d be a very powerful person. Does she want to be powerful, or does she just want to be “in power”?

  5. This President and this Congress in large part caused the economic collapse. Bush and his appointees are in the process of socializing the financial and automotive sectors, and potentially homes. If we do have a socialist President, he should have a very smooth transition. Obama says he has a “righteous wind at his back.” True and I hope good wins over evil in this election.

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