American Federation of Teachers (AFT) president Randi Weingarten, who leads the nation’s most powerful teachers’ union, has a message for fellow Jews: they should not criticize the unions, because they are part of America’s “ownership class.”
Weingarten’s comment, which invoked a stereotype of wealthy Jews commonly viewed as antisemitic, came during a recent interview with the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.
Reporter Laura E. Adkins commented: “I think some people are very skeptical of the power that they perceive teachers unions to have. They look at, for example, the ongoing struggles in Los Angeles, where they see this big dollar figure of aid being given for school reopening and are baffled by the perceived resistance of teachers to going back to work.”
I have a very pointed response here for Jews making this argument.
American Jews are now part of the ownership class. Jews were immigrants from somewhere else. And they needed the right to have public education. And they needed power to have enough income and wealth for their families that they could put their kids through college and their kids could do better than they have done. Both economic opportunity through the labor movement and an educational opportunity through public education were key for Jews to go from the working class to the ownership class.
What I hear when I hear that question is that those who are in the ownership class now want to take that ladder of opportunity away from those who do not have it. Am I saying that everything we do is right? No. Are people in Los Angeles fearful? Yes.
United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), the main public teachers’ union in Los Angeles public schools, had resisted returning to schools until a recent agreement was struck to adopt a hybrid model. The union also claimed last month that a reopening plan approved by Governor Gavin Newsom and state Democratic Party leaders was perpetuating “structural racism.”
In the past, Weingarten has accused President Donald Trump of antisemitism for using “anti-Semitic tropes”:
He can’t help himself…. because at his core Trump is a hater and only cares about himself…. Trump called out for using anti-Semitic tropes about wealth and loyalty in speech to U.S. Jews https://t.co/3kStmWQDlz
— Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten) December 8, 2019
Weingarten’s remarks triggered a controversy Wednesday, which she addressed Wednesday evening, claiming critics were distorting her intent:
Public ed & unions are drivers of social mobility 4 Jews & others. I didn’t intend to play into hateful antisemitic tropes & am disappointed some are trying to distort my intent which was to talk about our responsibility 2 enable opportunity & dignity https://t.co/ufdXaz08Yx
— Randi Weingarten (@rweingarten) April 7, 2021
Weingarten also noted in her own defense that she is a “rebbetzin,” i.e. married to a rabbi, Rabbi Sharon Kleinbaum of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah in New York City.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. His recent book, RED NOVEMBER, tells the story of the 2020 Democratic presidential primary from a conservative perspective. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.