The SF teachers’ union once again finds itself in the center of an uproar symptomatic of the city’s fractious political atmosphere, just weeks after the successful school board recall that garnered national attention.
On Thursday evening, United Educators of San Francisco Executive Vice President Frank Lara reposted a 1,700-word missive on the Ukrainian invasion from the Party for Socialism and Liberation that said the “current crisis is the byproduct of a long effort by the United States to establish absolute domination throughout Europe.”
What followed was a descent into a knock-down-drag-out political fight over social media, with State Sen. Scott Wiener accusing Lara of promoting Russian propaganda, and the teachers’ union fighting back and defending Lara.
The Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) is a political party established in San Francisco that received over 80,000 votes in the 2020 presidential election. The PSL espouses an anti-capitalist ideology similar to the Democratic Socialists of America, a popular organization in SF that counts Bernie Sanders and Supervisor Dean Preston as members. On his Twitter profile, Lara identifies as a member of the PSL.
On Saturday afternoon, San Francisco resident Armand Domalewski, whose family lives in Poland and who has close ties to Ukraine, had seen the post. Domalewski said he especially took issue with the sentence stating that “From 1922 until the dissolution of the Soviet Union the peoples of Ukraine and Russia lived in peace,” which he took as a denial of Holodomor, which some consider a genocide planned by Stalin.
Furious, Domalewski posted about it onto Twitter.
The VP of San Francisco Teacher’s Union, Frank Lara, shared a post justifying Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, blaming it on the US and Ukraine. He should resign. This is unacceptable https://t.co/byWYlYUSQ9 pic.twitter.com/CusBBfWEvk— Armand Domalewski (@ArmandDoma) February 26, 2022
Domalewski said the post has over 400,000 impressions. Former Bloomberg columnist Noah Smith, investor Garry Tan and Wiener were among those who piled on with the tweets.
Fascist dictator Putin is trying to conquer Ukraine, a democracy. He is creating a humanitarian disaster.— Senator Scott Wiener (@Scott_Wiener) February 27, 2022
So why on earth is the Executive Vice President of San Francisco’s teachers union (UESF) promoting Russian government propaganda? pic.twitter.com/i7JUziIB2H
By Sunday evening, the teacher’s union had posted a press release defending Lara, saying it was “shameful” to use Ukraine to “score political points here at home,” and that Lara is an award-winning educator who does not support the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
San Francisco Educators Call For San Francisco Leaders to Reject the Politics of Fear and Division, Support the Labor Movement and the Schools our Students Deserve; Reject Call for UESF Executive Vice President Frank Lara to Resign pic.twitter.com/Fhl57Ov2p9— UESF (@UESF) February 28, 2022
The teachers’ union and Lara did not respond to emailed requests for comment.
There is also a national fight happening over what educators should or should not be allowed to say inside and outside the classroom.
Reached by phone on Monday, Domalewski said he is angry at the union’s response to critiques, especially in light of the recent successful school board recall.
“It’s the same attitude: every single time they say something offensive, they just double down and gaslight you and say, ‘How dare you criticize us?’” he said. “This is all happening while I’m fielding calls from my grandma worried they are going to get shelled.”
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