Trump’s Controversial Education Secretary Nominee Opposed by Unions, Two GOP Senators

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

Turning aside objections from teachers, parents, the PTA and Senate Democrats, the Republican-run Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee approved GOP President Donald Trump’s nomination of Michigan millionaire Elizabeth “Betsy” DeVos to be Secretary of Education. But DeVos is in trouble, anyway.

That’s because on Feb. 1, Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, said they would vote against GOP big giver DeVos for the Education seat. If all 46 Democrats and both independents do, too, the result is a 50-50 tie. One more “no” sinks her.

The panel's 12-11 party-line vote came despite more than 1 million phone calls, e-mails and tweets, according to the National Education Association, a 2-page ad by the American Federation of Teachers, laying out the case against DeVos, in a widely read D.C. newspaper, and doubts about DeVos raised by top panel Democrat Patty Murray of Washington, a former kindergarten teacher.

DeVos is known for adamant advocacy of taxpayer-paid vouchers for parents of private school kids, her campaigns in Michigan for unregulated and unsupervised charter schools and to deny teachers tenure. She's also a GOP big donor and former Michigan GOP chair.

And she's drawn support from rabid anti-unionists, including right wing Gov. Scott Walker, R-Wis., who boasted in a letter to the panel that DeVos would agree with his anti-worker anti-union actions in the Badger State. He denounced “union bosses” who oppose her.

DeVos is one of several Trump cabinet nominees to face trouble from Senate Democrats, who, however, lack enough votes by themselves to derail the picks. Others facing problems are Rep. Tom Price, R-Ga., for Health and Human Services and fast food magnate Andy Puzder for the Labor Department. Puzder’s confirmation hearing was reset to Feb. 7.

DeVos "has shown great hostility toward public schools, which educate 90 percent of our children," said AFT President Randi Weingarten after the panel's vote.

"DeVos’ lack of experience, combined with her ideological zeal to put profits over children, has led to millions of Americans across the country — regardless of party affiliation — to ask their senators to reject her nomination. It is deeply troubling that Republicans on the committee would move her nomination forward following a hearing that exposed her lack of qualifications and her troubling record," the New York City high school history teacher added.

"The level of engagement from parents, students, and educators —from both parties — across the country in opposition to DeVos’ nomination and agenda has been nothing short of astounding," said NEA President Lily Eskelsen-Garcia, a pre-K teacher from Salt Lake City.

"This is a clear signal that a dangerously unqualified nominee has failed to convince the American people that she is capable of doing the job for which Donald Trump nominated her...As the nomination moves to the floor, every senator has a unique opportunity to put students before all else.

"The moment of truth is now. Will senators stand with our students and the public education system that educates nine out of every 10 students or will they ignore the growing chorus of bipartisan voices urging them to vote no on the controversial pick?

“Senators: We are watching. America is watching to see if you do what is right — reject the DeVos nomination — on behalf of students and public education.”

Murray hit DeVos for putting an ideological agenda above the nation's kids.

DeVos spent decades “using her inherited fortune to influence Republican candidates and push her extreme anti-student ideology," Murray said. DeVos fought for "the failed education policies that siphoned money away from strengthening public schools for all students and toward taxpayer-funded private school vouchers, with little accountability, for just a few."

And she cited DeVos' work "to reduce accountability for charter schools -- including for-profit charters -- and the devastating impact her advocacy has had on students in Michigan and across the country.

Trump's nominee was "stealing their opportunities to learn, pushing them into failed schools without true accountability, demonizing teachers, and weakening public education in their communities,” the senator said.




Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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There is Dignity in All Work

There is Dignity in All Work