Question: What’s worse than a teacher’s union voting to support a cold-blooded cop killer? Answer: A teacher’s union voting to support a cold-blooded cop killer, then making up all sorts of lame excuses to the cop’s widow before hanging up on her, then running to their membership to tell an entirely different story to justify their behavior . . . by pointing fingers at Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, who, according to the California Federation of Teachers union, is forcing teachers 2000 miles away support a cop killer.
Marty Hittelman, President, California Federation of Teachers
Two weeks ago, Kyle Olson at the site Big Government broke the troubling story about the California Teacher’s Union renewing their support for convicted cop-killer Mumia Abu-Jamal. Three decades ago, Abu-Jamal gunned down police officer Daniel Faulkner. Although the courts have permitted Abu-Jamal scores of reviews, the conviction unambiguously stands. For background on the Mumia case and factual information and myth debunking rarely reported anymore, go to DanielFaulkner.com, the website run by Faulkner’s widow.
Support for Mumia goes way back in academic circles. In 1995, 1998, and 2000, academics took out full-page pro-Mumia ads in the New York Times. Which academics? All the usual suspects, including Frances Fox-Pivens, whose prominence in this and other causes gives the lie to her current complaint that she was merely an anonymous scholar toiling in the stacks until Glen Beck made her a household name. Along with Pivens, academicians who put their names in the Times on the pro-cop-killing side of the ledger include: Howard Zinn (of course), Henry Louis Gates (of course), Cornel West, Noam Chomsky, Jonathan Kozol, Angela Davis, Toni Morrison, Herbert Aptheker, Peter Matthiessen, Patricia J. Williams and Sonia Sanchez (of course, of course, of course, of course).
And hundreds more. The California Teacher’s Union has long been pro-Mumia — in certain like-minded circles, mind you. But now that the internet is helping get this news to the public, and thus less sympathetic audiences, the union is crying foul . . . about people actually finding out about their prima facie public act of supporting Mumia.
Weird. Isn’t the point of voting for a resolution or taking out an ad in a newspaper getting attention? Apparently not for the CFT. It’s one thing to grandstand in an echo chamber; it’s something quite different to have your controversial actions blazoned in the hard light of day. And so, union president Marty Hittelman has been flailing around, accusing journalists of participating in some conspiracy against him for merely reporting on the CFT’s public policy platform.
Hittelman also lashed out at Daniel Faulkner’s widow, a pretty stupid move considering her proven (and tragically well-worn) capacity to defend herself. Maureen Faulkner, a hero of mine, pulled no punches in her encounter with Hittelman last week:
Thursday, I called and spoke with Marty Hittelman, president of the California Federation of Teachers, to inquire if I had the facts straight regarding its endorsement of the murderer of my husband.
During my brief conversation with Mr. Hittelman, I calmly asked him if he knew what happened the night my husband was murdered. He replied that he did not know and “he has not read any of the transcripts” yet, he believes “Abu-Mumia deserves a third trial.”
He told me that the resolution (by the teachers) only took one minute and he had not personally voted on it. I responded that it may have only taken one minute but the continuing trials, appeals and propaganda have resulted in many years of emotional distress for me and my family. He replied, “I’m sure it has.”
He also said this wasn’t supposed to get out into the press, asking, How did you find out about this?” I replied that I found out through the newspapers and told him, “You have no idea what victims go through when they lose a loved one to murder.” At this point, Hittelman hung up on me!
“How did you find out about this?” What a buffoon. You’d think Hittelman would have learned a few things since his last media wipeout, when he infamously compared the charter school movement to “lynch mobs,” then dug that hole even deeper by defending his choice of words using even less choice words. Here is Hittelman quoted in Intercepts blog:
What’s a lynch mob? It’s when a bunch of angry citizens get together and without any study they decide to lynch somebody. And in this case (the measure), they’re going to lynch their school. If you want to call them a lynch mob, you can, but basically what they’re doing is lynching the school and all the teachers who will be fired and all the kids who will have to go to a different school.
Let me see if I can illustrate Hittelman’s thought processes:
school choice = lynch mob
media coverage = right-wing conspiracy
defending a cop-killer = educator union job
But, there’s more. The excellent Intercepts blog observes that Hittelman has long been deeply involved in pro-Mumia activities for at least a decade. So he was feigning ignorance when he told Maureen Faulkner he knew little about the case. From Intercepts:
It’s curious that Hittelman would claim to have not read “any of the transcripts” since he figures prominently in a May 2000 press release by the Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal attempting to raise funds for newspaper ads (like this one that appeared in the New York Times) advocating for a new trial. He was also a signatory to the ad. Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal [which] still exists, and Hittelman’s name still appears on the organization’s “list of supporters.”
Hittelman’s behavior places educators in California in a very difficult place. If they don’t do something about their union president, his actions will continue to represent them. Imagine being a student whose parent or sibling was killed by some violent thug like Mumia, knowing that the teacher sitting in the front of your classroom is officially supporting the release of a killer. Imagine being a cop’s kid walking into a school where every single teacher is supporting people who kill cops. That’s currently every classroom in California, a new definition of culture war.
The deception gets worse. Marty Hittleman downplayed the significance of the Mumia resolution when he spoke with Maureen Faulkner, but he took a very different stance when explaining the pro-Mumia resolution to teachers themselves. On the CFT website, the official line on the Mumia resolution is that it is crucial for union members to support the resolution because any criticism of the union’s action on Mumia is part of a concerted attack on unions by people like Dick Cheney. Yes, Dick Cheney is part of the conspiracy:
A few weeks after the CFT convention, a conservative activist noticed that among the CFT resolutions—posted on our website—was one supporting a new trial for Mumia Abu Jamal, a man convicted nearly three decades ago of killing a police officer in Philadelphia. This resolution was shared with a right wing “news” website founded by Dick Cheney, which promptly created an uproar in the conservative media machine . . .
The CFT reiterates that they believe Mumia didn’t receive a fair trial, despite Hittelman’s claim that he had not even reviewed the record of the case:
The CFT does not believe he received a fair trial, and everyone who is accused of a crime deserves a fair trial.
Any criticism of anything the unions do is an attack on all workers:
Unions were built through solidarity. We would not have the 8 hour day or minimum wage laws or the weekend if working people hadn’t stood in solidarity with one another, across the country, and with other groups of citizens concerned about democratic rights—much like what is occurring today in Wisconsin and other Midwestern states where workers’ collective bargaining rights are under attack by billionaires and their right wing politician friends. If due process rights are violated anywhere it is a concern of citizens in a democracy everywhere.
You see, according to Marty Hittelman, teachers ARE Mumia. The union is equating educators with a cop-killer, and also saying that’s a noble thing. Demonstrations of such feelings reveal the deep pathology of the pro-criminal left, and the existence of a critical mass of people in academia who fantasize constantly about being oppressed by “lynch mobs” of “evil Americans.” Part of the fantasy is believing that killers in prison are the only real victims, and that crime victims are hateful mobs, and that cops are violent liars who deserve it when they get shot.
So how do California police feel about the California teachers supporting a cop-killer? Brotherhood may run deep among unions, but not so deep that police are going to overlook the CFT resolution. So Hittelman goes on a hysterical offensive, arguing that the real issue isn’t his union’s support for Mumia but the nefarious actions of Monopoly-piece bankers and other assorted fat cats who are trying to use the teachers’ Mumia platform to drive a wedge in worker’s solidarity:
For weeks in Wisconsin, teachers and police stood side by side with other unionists and their friends in the community in demonstrations, marches, and the occupation [sic] of the Capitol in Madison, protesting the outrageous anti-worker attack . . . The story about the CFT resolution, and the way it was spun, is part of a strategy to undermine the solidarity of public sector workers, especially police and teachers. It is also yet another attempt to distract the public from the central story of our historical moment: the crashing of our economy by the wealthy and their Wall Street banks; their continuing successful efforts to fight paying their fair share of taxes to support the public education and services everyone needs . . .
So you see, being critical of California teachers for supporting a cop killer is oppression. Meanwhile, according to Daniel Flynn, the (national) Fraternal Order of Police is pretty unhappy with the (national) Federation of Teachers over the California union’s actions:
On April 14, FOP National President Chuck Canterbury issued a scathing letter to American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. In part, it read:
I cannot understand why the CFT, which like us represents rank-and-file employees, would support a murderer. In fact, Abu-Jamal’s victim was a rank-and-file law enforcement officer and a member of F.O.P. Local Lodge #5 in Philadelphia. I can only assume that the membership did so out of ignorance of the facts or that they were misled by this killer’s propaganda machine. I want to set the record straight and would respectively, yet urgently, request that you and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) publicly reject this repugnant resolution.
According to Flynn, the Federation of Teachers isn’t budging, and there are now plans to pass a national resolution supporting Mumia. Soon, teachers in every state may be throwing their support behind a brutal, unrepentant cop-killer. And they should be taken at their word when they do it, like everyone who makes this choice, no matter if they try to weasel out of it in settings where such attitudes are inconvenient.