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From Enemy of Latinos to Leader of New York City Schools: Cathie Black’s Shameful Human Rights Record

December 2nd, 2010 · 7 Comments

By Jude Soto

In spite of the numerous protests against her appointment, this week Commissioner of the New York State Education Department, David Steiner, confirmed Cathie Black as Chancellor of New York City Public Schools. That sadness I am feeling as a school teacher, that my boss is someone who lacks a background in education and sent her children to ritzy private boarding schools in Connecticut, is buttressed by her record of latent approval of anti-labor tactics in Latin America.

For seventeen years Cathie Black served on the board of directors of Coca Cola, and while expanding into developing markets, the company also has been accused of some outrageous anti-union activity in Latin America. In 1997, Adolfo Jesus de Munera the union leader in a bottling plant in Barranquilla, Colombia was given death threats, forced to flee his house, fired by Coca Cola, and then found murdered. If one was to claim that this was an isolated incident or that Munera’s murder was carried out because of issues not related to his union activities, let it be known that seven other union leaders of at Coca Cola bottling plants in Colombia had also been murdered. Also, there is currently a lawsuit in place in Guatemala alleging the company gave the go ahead to “murder, attempted murder and rape as intimidate tactics against union leaders.” In a perfect world, a member of an organization that was complicit in the murder of innocent Latinos would be in jail right now, but this is not a perfect world, and Cathie Black is now the head of a school district that is nearly 40% Latino.

It might be suggested that Black knew nothing about these events, or that as a member of a multi-person board of directors Black should not be held responsible for the actions of an entire multinational corporation, but numerous reports suggest that Black was well aware of these incidents. While on the board of directors for Coca-Cola, Black voted against an independent investigation into the labor abuses in Colombia. The board also unanimously voted against opposing human rights abuses in China. The information was brought to light, debated, and put to vote, and time and again Cathie Black put profit ahead of humanity. To excuse Black is to excuse the very acts themselves.

With realizing that teachers are the focal point of a nationwide bipartisan campaign against public workers, and Black’s anti-labor status, it’s obvious why Michael Bloomberg picked her to run city schools. As a fellow media mogul, with noted union-busting tendencies, one can imagine Bloomberg skipping gingerly to his limousine when the idea dawned to appoint Black. I, however, am grumbling, and nervously waiting to see if Cathie Black will do to New York’s teachers what she did to Colombia’s workers.

Jude Soto has been a teacher in a low-income public high school in New York City since 2004. A native New Yorker, Soto has an M.A. in history from Brooklyn College. Outside of the academic world, his pursuits include traveling, weightlifting, and long distance running.

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Tags: Education · Labor Relations

7 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Paolo Jimenez // Dec 2, 2010 at 12:39 pm

    Dear god…..
    Well its good to know she’s a killer!

  • 2 Paolo Jimenez // Dec 2, 2010 at 12:54 pm

    btw, I’m gonna have a coke and try not to think of any banana republic slayings…..

  • 3 Jenny Rueda // Dec 3, 2010 at 11:14 am

    Its interesting to realize how the leaders of the education system treat it as a buisiness with mafia-type tendencies, and yet they use the “good of the children” and of families to advertise their purpose. I find this article to be very insightful, especially since its written from a teacher/historian’s perspectve.

  • 4 HispanicPundit // Dec 4, 2010 at 11:35 pm

    That sadness I am feeling as a school teacher, that my boss is someone who lacks a background in education and sent her children to ritzy private boarding schools in Connecticut, is buttressed by her record of latent approval of anti-labor tactics in Latin America.

    The fact that she sends her kids to private schools is really no different than what public school teachers do: “urban public school teachers are…more likely to send their children to private school than are urban families in general.” And this is after controlling for household wealth. See here.

    I always find it ironic when those who personally benefit from public education condemn others for putting their family above that of the public education system – and do so in morally superior tones. Do you really feel your job is so important that others should sacrifice their child’s education to increase the employment prospects of you and your cohorts?

    Actually, I’ve looked into the union Coca-Cola accusations a bit. And they are tenuous at best. For one, union killing seems to be a general problem in Latin America, especially Columbia, no matter what the company. Second, most of the union bashing seems to be related to local politics, not some grand scheme at the top. Third, it makes logical sense to be against “independent investigations”, as they rarely turn out to be independent and without a political agenda, and fourth, even a cursory understanding of union politics would tell you that “opposing human rights abuses in China” is code word for “free trade restrictions”. Yet it’s precisely free trade that is lifting millions of Chinese people out of poverty everyday.

    In other words, your post demonstrates nothing but self-interested union pandering which leads me to believe that Cathie Black might actually be a good candidate after all. As there is something we should all be able to agree on: namely, that there is already too much union control of our public school system. So maybe, just maybe, putting a candidate who is not beholden to union interests might actually do some good? We can all hope.

  • 5 Richie // Dec 6, 2010 at 7:21 am

    While on the board of directors for Coca-Cola, Black voted against an independent investigation into the labor abuses in Colombia. The board also unanimously voted against opposing human rights abuses in China. The information was brought to light, debated, and put to vote, and time and again Cathie Black put profit ahead of humanity

    Wow…..

    That is not something that should be forgiven. If only this could be revealed in the news. Bloomberg and Murdoch are protecting their friends!

  • 6 Alain // Dec 7, 2010 at 7:50 am

    Isn’t union influence in the school system what gave us smaller class size and more realistic diplomas? The reason the DOE hates unions is because they want teachers who will just pass 100% of students, whether or not they know anything or not.

  • 7 Morton Liebowitz // Dec 9, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    Jude, instead of complaining and whining about Cathy Black why don’t you focus your attention on important things, like the children you are supposed to be teaching.

    Cathy Black = business savvy. Ever play Sim City? A kind heart gets you no where. Profit always comes before humanity, and humanity always profits off of money. I am glad HispanicPundit tore your @$$hole up like you just got out of prison, where is precisely where I think your logic was derived.

    Maybe all the people can share all the world, or maybe you can sing that line while you sit on your vast sum of $200+ million dollars, live in the US to avoid paying 60% of your salary to the crown, claim every deduction known to man and brag about donating several grand to the NYPD for bulletproof vests while acting like you are the greatest NYer.

    Its ironic Jude that both you and Lennon prefer not to see the truth, but Jude you should be afraid. Afraid that when Cathy Black actually makes the Public School system better that you and your union will have nothing to complain about.

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