CFT Convention prepares us for tough challenges facing the union

By Joshua Pechthalt, CFT President

The CFT completed its 75th Convention and Jeff Freitas and I were honored to be re-elected by delegates to lead this great, progressive union. A new Executive Council was also elected, a diverse group of local leaders that will help guide this organization in the difficult period ahead. 

While many on the Executive Council will remain, including current Senior Vice President Lacy Barnes, new leaders include Gemma Abels from Morgan Hill, Arlene Inouye and Juan Ramirez from Los Angeles, Britt Dowdy from Newport Mesa, Lita Blanc and Susan Solomon from San Francisco, Matt Kogan from Los Angeles representing adult education, and Mac McKinzie from Compton representing classified members.

Departing the council will be Dennis Kelly and Elaine Merriweather from San Francisco, Melinda Dart from Daly City, Alex Caputo Pearl and Betty Forrester from Los Angeles, Kimberly Claytor from Newport-Mesa, Jack Carroll from the Pajaro Valley representing adult education, and Paula Philips, the classified council president.

Luukia Smith stepped down as a vice president, but was elected the new president of the Council of Classified Employees so will continue to serve on the council. Mia McIver also joins as the new president of the University Council-AFT. Outgoing leader Bob Samuels has held that office for 12 years and has been a strong, articulate voice for our UC members and for reducing costs for UC students.

Much of the CFT Convention focused on the challenging new reality in Washington, D.C. With the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch as U.S. Supreme Court justice, the CFT and public sector unions foresee the loss of agency fee. The new lawsuit, Janus v. AFCSME, is certain to make its way to the Supreme Court and raises the same issues as Friedrichs v. CTA.

The new lawsuit, Janus v. AFCSME, is certain to make its way to the Supreme Court and raises the same issues as Friedrichs v. CTA.

While the sudden death of Justice Scalia last year put a halt to Friedrichs, we had been preparing for this set-back for some time. The end of agency fee will weaken our ability to represent our members and advocate for public education. Local unions throughout the state have been engaging members and non-members alike and moving agency fee payers to become full members in anticipation of losing agency fee.

We must now redouble our efforts to talk to members and get them involved in our locals. Union leaders who substitute themselves for an organized and active membership will be more vulnerable to the coming loss of agency fee and to the various anti-union measures coming out of the White House and Congress.

Active unions are a way to win over members to the value of unionism. Whether it’s a contract or political campaign, when members see their union fighting on their behalf, it underscores the value of unions and their collective strength.

One activity highlighted at the Convention was the May 1st action. The CFT, many of our locals, and other unions and organizations mobilized to show support for immigrants, education issues, and worker solidarity. May 1st has its roots in the fight for the eight-hour work day in a massive demonstration at Chicago’s Haymarket Square in 1886. 

The Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools wanted to build on that historic day by joining the immigrant rights community to defend public education alongside our members, students, parents, and community members to fight the privatization agenda coming from the White House. Together, we can reclaim the momentum and in turn broaden support for public education.


Our union today
Want to know more about our union’s challenges and successes? Read the State of the Union address delivered by President Joshua Pechthalt to delegates at CFT Convention.