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Letter to the Editor: Accuracy, Please!

20-Nov-2019Whitney Kahn

This image is a derivative work of the following images: File:Mail-envelope.png licensed with PD-self 2007-10-26T14:35:50Z

In my opinion, the book review of No Shortcuts in the last issue of this magazine has one glaring mistake which deserves a response.

In his review of the book, Philip Locker wrote, “McAlevey locates workers, not staff or advocates, as the agency for a powerful labor movement. But she does not present workers as the agent for overcoming the failed policies of the current union leadership and forging an alternative strategy for rebuilding labor.” He was agreeing with another review by Mike Parker who made similar points.

This seems inaccurate to me. McAlevey devotes a lengthy chapter of her book to describe the lessons of the formation of the radical CORE caucus in the Chicago Teachers Union, how it challenged the establishment leadership, took over the union and led a successful strike in 2012. This is the touchstone example that draws out all the lessons that Locker and Parker claim are not present in McAlevey’s book.

McAlevey has gone on to back up her dedication to rank-and-file caucus organizing with on-the-ground work. The CORE caucus has since organized a network of rank-and-file educators caucuses called UCORE (United Caucuses of Rank-and-file Educators), and McAlevey has done consulting work with some of those caucuses as well. This includes the Philadelphia Working Educators caucus which has already succeeded in organizing to win millions of dollars to combat toxic building conditions and is poised to possibly win in the upcoming election for union leadership.

I agree with Locker’s other critiques including the absence of a clear “No Shortcuts” strategy when it comes to the need to build a working-class political party, but this point seemed to me a strawman which didn’t align with the reality of the book or McAlevey’s strategy.

-- Whitney Kahn
Seattle Education Association member

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