Convention 2018:  A snapshot summary in words and pictures

March 23-25: Hilton Orange County in Costa Mesa

About 400 delegates at CFT Convention 2018 discussed resolutions on a broad range of policy issues; heard from the law school dean at UC Berkeley, Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, and Tony Thurmond, the CFT-endorsed candidate for the job of superintendent of public instruction; joined thousands to rally and march for safer schools and common sense gun control; learned a whole lot about Janus v. AFSCME, a Supreme Court case that could effectively turn the public sector into a “right to work” zone; and heard from a teacher in West Virginia where they succeeded in getting a 5 percent raise for all public employees.

In a grim time for public schools and unions in general, with Donald Trump as president and billionaire anti-public education advocate Betsy DeVos as the Secretary of Education, speakers acknowledged the bleakness of the situation while exhorting CFT members to fight harder and offering bright spots to celebrate.

Guest Speaker Tony Thurmond: On Friday morning, Tony Thurmond, addressed the Convention, talking about how he’s seen support staff, such as custodians, make a big difference in the lives of students, He always knew he wanted to be on the side of working people, Thurmond said, and as superintendent of public instruction, he wants to make sure all students, including low-income ones like he was, have an opportunity to get a great education.

Lots of workshops: After lunch, conference attendees had a choice of dozens of workshops to attend, including ones on pension advocacy, cultural relevance, climate education, and adjunct issues. Another series of workshops focused on Janus preparedness.

PRO GALLERY: We’re Off and Rolling see our first photo album on facebook

West Virginia solidarity: In the evening, during the EC/TK-12 Council meeting, members heard from one of the teachers involved in the strike in West Virginia. The victory in a deep red state was one of those bright spots, and later in the Convention during general session, Rico Tamayo, the indefatigable president of the EC/TK-12 Council, had delegates join hands while singing John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” to honor the teachers of West Virginia (described in the song as “almost heaven”), and to remember to stand in solidarity with one another.

Guest Speaker Erwin Chemerinsky: On Saturday, the dean of UC Berkeley Law, Erwin Chemerinsky talked about the what’s going on with the Supreme Court, focusing particularly on Janus v. AFSCME, which would mean unions couldn’t collect “fair-share” fees from nonmembers who benefit from the union’s bargaining activities. A similar case, Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association, went to the court in 2016 and resulted in a 4-4 split decision after the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. Now that Trump has appointed conservative Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court in his place, Janus is predicted to become law. With this and other cases, Chemerinsky said the Supreme Court could possibly be the most anti-labor it’s been since the 1930s. But he pointed out that rather than despairing, our choices are to give up — or fight even harder.

State of the Union: President Joshua Pechthalt echoed some of this in his State of the Union address, talking about how demoralizing and frightening the past year has been — he even likened it to 1930s Nazi Germany — but he said there are still rays of hope and the feeling that a progressive movement is growing in opposition to Trump and his destructive policies. Some positive things have happened in the face of a terrible political climate, like in our state, City College of San Francisco getting accredited after a five-year battle, Compton College after 10 years, and the CFT winning its lawsuit against the accreditation agency. Pechthalt also talked about how the victory of the West Virginia teachers emboldens labor and the inspiration of seeing teenagers organizing after the Parkland shooting.

PRO GALLERY: Members in Motion — see our second album on Facebook
Ben Rust Award: Dennis Kelly, former AFT and CFT Vice President and former president of United Educators of San Francisco, received the Ben Rust Award, the union’s highest honor. He methodically gathered his family, including his triplet grandkids and UESF colleagues, on the stage with him during his acceptance speech, demonstrating that when we work together, we can get more things done.

March for Our Lives Rally: After lunch, people boarded eight buses to take them to a March For Our Lives rally in Santa Ana. Hundreds of thousands attended throughout the country and internationally. Teenage survivors of the February 14 shooting of 17 students at a school in Parkland, Florida, organized the rally, and their advocacy for safer schools and gun control is another bright spot to celebrate. At the rally, another person endorsed by the CFT — this time for governor — Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, spoke, along with two CFT members, confirming his support for gun control and thanking the teenagers leading this movement.

PRO GALLERY: Delegates join March for Our Lives — see our album on Facebook

Elections: When buses returned from the march, elections were held for delegates to the AFT Convention and the California Labor Federation. CFT President Joshua Pechthalt, Senior Vice President Lacy Barnes, and Secretary Treasurer Jeffery Freitas were elected from a field of six candidates.

More awards: Sandra Larsen, president of the Petaluma Federation of Teachers who organized a successful one-day strike, received the Women in Education Award. Ron Gaer from ABC Federation of Teachers was honored with the Raoul Teilhet Award. Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher and Senator Connie Leyva were also honored for their advocacy for public education and unions with the Legislator of the Year Awards. About two dozen local unions took home communications awards, and numerous locals won awards for their political advocacy and organizing work.

Policy debate: Delegates also debated resolutions on policy. Ones that generated a lot of discussion was one to raise the workload of community college part-time faculty from 67 percent to 80 percent, which passed, and one to protect students and staff from the health risks of pesticides, which also passed. A constitutional amendment also passed to change the CFT Convention to be a biennial event instead of an annual event. Next year, the Convention will be in Los Angeles and will mark the CFT’s 100th anniversary. Following that Convention, the next one will be held in 2021.

PRO GALLERY: Great Moments — see our final photo album on Facebook

Reporting by Emily Wilson, CFT Reporter
Photographs by Sharon Beals and Lori Eanes
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Convention 2017: Organize. Resist.

The 75th Annual California Federation of Teachers convention, held at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in downtown Sacramento, welcomed hundreds of members and memorable speakers eager to combat the destructive and oppressive policies of the Donald Trump Administration. The fact that the first day of the convention fell on Cesar Chavez Day was fitting considering the theme of the convention: Organize. Resist.

The convention was also highlighted by biennial elections, with current leadership receiving overwhelming support for another term.

March for immigration rights

Day One of the convention featured an all-delegate march through the streets of the state capital in support of immigration rights. Hundreds of CFT members and supporters walked to the west steps of the state capitol building, with a stop at the Sacramento ICE Field Office. The delegation held rallies at both stops.

“We will not allow a McCarthyite environment of fear envelop our schools and communities,” said CFT President Joshua Pechthalt. “We are here to show that educators and the entire community will stand together to ensure that our schools remain safe places of learning for all our students.”

The event had a solid representation from the UCLA Labor Center, including Director Kent Wong and Dream Summer Coordinator Hugo Romero.

“The CFT must take the lead to fight for our immigrant students and their families in this time of crisis,” Wong said. “We stand united to demand, ‘Education, not deportation.’”

Added Romero: “I know what for profit detention and deportation looks like. The same private interests that profited off of my mother’s misery when she was deported are now trying to profit off of privatizing education.”

Early Childhood Federation of Teachers president Gloria Garcia spoke on the Capitol steps.

“Approximately 90% of the families we serve are immigrants. Since the new presidential administration came in, we have begun to witness fear in our young students,” Garcia said. “One said to his teacher, do you know who Trump is? The teacher responded, yes. Then the little boy said, Trump wants to send my parents back to Mexico, and I am not going to see them again.”

Added Gemma Abels, president, Morgan Hill Federation of Teachers: “Imagine the bravery it takes for a family to come here not knowing the language and without job prospects. We extol a lot of different acts of courage. Why don’t we celebrate the bravery a family must have to cross our borders? One of my students’ worst fears were realized when his father was deported back to Mexico. Every day he sat in class, trying to concentrate on school while wondering when he would see his dad again.”

Fabrizio Sasso, Executive Director of the Sacramento Central Labor Council; and Los Rios College Federation of Teachers President Dean Murakami also spoke at the rally.

Speaking up & speaking out

The 2017 keynote speaker was environmentalist and philanthropist Tom Steyer, who spoke about resisting Trump’s policies. “I am obsessed with refuting their lies, and taking a moral high ground,” Steyer said. “Tony Thurmond, who represents Northern California’s 15th Assembly District (which includes East Bay communities that stretch along the I-80 corridor from Oakland to Hercules) and chairs the Assembly Committee on Labor and Employment, also gave a rousing speech, calling education as “the great equalizer.” Former Senate Pro Tem and current Mayor of Sacramento Darrell Steinberg, State Senator Richard Pan and AFT Secretary-Treasurer Loretta Johnson were also warmly received.

Some of the most poignant remarks came from CFT leaders and members themselves. In his annual State of the Union address, President Joshua Pechthalt spoke of recent victories, from Prop 55 to combating the ACCJC, as well as challenges ahead. “Trump’s election represents an unprecedented threat to public education,” Pechthalt said. “The confirmation of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education ensures that the Trump administration will not only move a privatization agenda, it will likely go beyond what any Republican or Democratic administration has attempted before.” Read President Pechthalt’s entire State of the Union address here.

One of the most invigorating moments of the convention came at the conclusion of Council President Rico Tamayo’s K-12 Division Recap. In considering the challenges that labor faces in the coming months and years, Tamayo led a rousing sing-along to Gloria Gaynor’s disco hit “I Will Survive.”

Resolutions and policy

Delegates took action on 23 policy resolutions on topics ranging from community schools to immigrant rights. Highlights include Resolution 1, calling for CFT to provide assistance to members about immigration enforcement; Resolution 14, calling to reclaim the promise of racial equity for Black males in California; and Resolution 13, calling for support of AROS and the statewide day of action on May 1.

Workshops

Dozens of workshops on Friday and Saturday, led by CFT leaders and staff and outside experts brought educational policy and labor issues before the attendees. Popular topics included “Climate Justice 101: How to Talk About the Climate Crisis with Students and Members,” “The Many Facets of Fascism” and “The New Friedrichs Cases and the Steps CFT is Taking to Prepare.” Friday’s “Labor History and Resistance in the Time of Trump” workshop had 80 people in attendance.

Meetings, reports, awards

In addition to the statewide union, four division councils of CFT met; Secretary Treasurer Jeffery Freitas delivered a report on the union’s finances; communications awards were handed out in an entertaining presentation by CFT staff Jane Hundertmark and Kevin Cronin; the Legislator of the Year award was bestowed upon Assemblymemembers Kevin McCarty and Phil Ting; Melinda Dart of Daly City’s Jefferson Elementary received the Women in Education Award; and former President of the San Jose/Evergreen Federation of Teachers David Yancey received the Ben Rust Award, CFT’s highest honor.

Elections

Delegates overwhelming elected the Unity Slate, led by CFT President Joshua Pechthalt and Secretary-Treasurer Jeff Freitas. Lacy Barnes returns as Senior Vice President. 

See Convention in images

See our comprehensive photo coverage of Convention 2017 on Facebook. Please tag your friends and colleagues!

March for Immigrant Rights
More Member Action
Highlights Recap
Members in Motion

News coverage

Capitol Alert
Sacramento Bee
March 31, 2017
Also this weekend, billionaire environmentalist and former hedge fund manager Tom Steyer keynotes the 75th Annual convention of the California Federation of Teachers, also at the Sheraton. Steyer speaks at 3:15 Saturday. On Sunday, Democratic Assemblymen Kevin McCarty and Phil Ting take home legislator of the year awards from the group.

Comunidad inmigrante de Sacramento recordó a César Chávez con diferentes actividades
Univision
March 31, 2017

California Federation of Teachers Holds March and Rally In Sacramento
CBS Sacramento
March 31, 2017

California Federation of Teachers Holds March for Immigrant Rights
New University
April 4, 2017

Conference promotes leadership and activism in difficult times

QUICK RESOURCES

Hashtags: #DumpDeVos, #AFTallin
Website: AllinAFT.org

At the Leadership Conference, California’s top legislative leaders confirmed their stance defending our state’s progressive values and union members learned CFT’s legislative and political priorities for the coming year — all this amidst the national backdrop of a massive movement to reject the most unqualified nominee ever for U.S. Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.DF6A1609

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Paramount) kicked off the event, saying, “We’re working hard to represent the progressive values we have always represented. We’re not in Kansas, right? We’re California, we’re taking care of our kids and our progressive values. We’re defending our state.”

Rendon said the state has retained the Covington law firm where the former U.S. Attorney General practices law. “Eric Holder is working with us to make sure we know what we can do with the federal government and how we can fight back, and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra is working to make sure services for families remain first-rate.”

CFT members heard from Rendon and Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel) who reiterated the Speaker’s commitment and hit on topics ranging from the DeVos nomination, saying, “We now have people who are not going to be champions for public education,” to President Trump’s immigration ban.

“Trump signed an executive order that probably has a more profound effect on us here in California. What it does is systematically allow for the deportation of anyone who has been charged with a crime, or even a chargeable offense, without the due process right to a hearing.”

To defend immigrant rights, Monning said, “The Senate passed a bill to provide representation to undocumented immigrants.”

(See photos on Facebook)

Throughout the two-day politics and policy summit, CFT members had the opportunity to attend skill-building workshops such as organizing and in another track, learn about key policy issues facing the Federation.

On Wednesday night, members were able to talk one-on-one with their elected representatives at a union-sponsored reception in the State Capitol. (See photos on Facebook)

On Thursday morning, attendees fanned out across the Capitol in dozens of meetings with legislators and their aides to promote the legislative agenda CFT will be putting forward this year. CFT is currently working to place several union-sponsored bills in the Legislature.

An AFT representative encouraged attendees to visit a new AFT website AllinAFT.org to find talking points on the Affordable Healthcare Act and Trump nominees, as well as draft resolutions for locally elected boards, petitions and postcards. The hashtag for social media is #AFTallin.

Were You a Racist?

— By Paul Karrer, a retired member of the North Monterey County Federation of Teachers who taught for 37 years. Find him online here.

On the Friday before Martin Luther King Junior day, I asked my fifth-graders if they knew why we had the day off. One suggested, “To celebrated MLK’s birthday.”

To be honest, for a ten-year-old that wasn’t bad.

“No,” another piped in, “It’s cuz he fought for blacks’ rights.”

“Good and you’re 100 percent correct.” I replied. Let’s call the child who piped up with that answer Isaiah. He’s perceptive and often sees the big picture.

I thought it would be appropriate to show a short clip on both Martin Luther King, Jr.’s accomplishments, and his struggles. Not many of the kids knew he had been stabbed or that his house had been bombed. 

The same film showed the iconic footage of police dogs being set upon blacks and of high-pressure water cannons hosing protesters. Rosa Parks was mentioned and the famous bus boycott. My kids made shocked noises now and then. I also viewed a short clip about his assassination. 

I mentioned that when I was a kid my mom took me from Connecticut to Florida on a train and that once we hit the South, bathrooms clearly stated WHITE or COLORED. I honestly told them I was way too young to remember it.

Isaiah raised his hand, “Were you a racist?”

There was no malice, no wise guy intent in his question. Every child watched me with their predominantly Latino/Latina eyes. Isaiah is a brilliant, great kid. A high-level thinker. He just put the facts together and made a logical conclusion. Our teacher is Anglo. Anglos were racist. He lived then, therefore he must have been a racist.

The quick response out of my mouth was, “No, of course not.” And then I thought, This child has just dared to ask you a question from his heart. A question, if a teacher had a thin skin, might have gone the wrong way.

“Isaiah, you make me happy. You always ask good questions. You just made me re-think my answer. “Yes, Isaiah. I’m sorry to say when I think about it, my family and I were ignorant and racist sometimes. I think I’m not any more.”

One of my girls said, “That’s why you teach us huh?”

“Yes, I’d like to think so.”

Another one piped in, “And your wife is Korean.”

Wow, they’re defending ME! Man, I love these kids.

“You know what? We are having recess a couple of minutes early.”

A shout of communal joy rang out and I dismissed them. I thought my moral lesson for the day had been learned, but I was wrong. One girl hung back, waiting until all the kids left.

“Mr. Karrer, Martin Luther King, Jr. was shot right?”

“Yes.”

“You ever been shot?”

Her eyes plumbed my depths, “No.”

“My dad was shot. He’s in prison now. Elissa’s dad was shot too. He’s dead you know.”

“Yes, I knew about her dad.”

She smiled, “See you after recess.” Then put her books in her backpack and left me alone in the room with much to ponder.

Speier praises CCSF, condemns ACCJC

San Francisco—One thing for certain about Congresswoman Jackie Speier: she is consistent. On November 28 at a City College of San Francisco (CCSF) forum that she organized and hosted, the Bay Area Congresswoman sang the praises of the largest community college in California. She also made clear that no matter what the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) decides in its January meeting about CCSF, she will do everything in her power to keep the school open and serving its tens of thousands of students. 

Speier et al
From right, state senator-elect Scott Weiner, Assemblymember Phil Ting, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, and Speier staff Bryan Perkins, at the City College of San Francisco forum called by the Congresswoman on November 28. Fred Glass photo

To bolster that message, she brought along several other elected officials (Assemblymember Phil Ting, State Senator-elect Scott Weiner, and president of the CCSF Board of Trustees Rafael Mandelman), and a group of City College faculty and students led by AFT 2121 president Tim Killikelly, to present the case. College of San Mateo president Mike Claire rounded out the presenters.

The presentation took place before a packed audience of several hundred at the Diego Rivera Theater. The forum’s structure, including statements of support by the elected officials, and testimony from the classrooms of several revered City College occupational programs detailing their importance to San Francisco businesses, looked like a streamlined echo of a forum held during the height of the school’s accreditation crisis a couple years ago. That hearing was likewise steered by Speier, and she also signed on to a letter sent by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi last September asking the US Secretary of Education to “delist” the ACCJC as an accreditor.

Speier called ACCJC’s actions in attempting to shut down the college “reprehensible, and in no way supported by the facts.” She cited the finding of a joint Legislative Audit Committee that the commission had treated CCSF in a fashion inconsistent with its treatment of other colleges, and reminded the audience that the decision had been found illegal by a San Francisco Superior Court judge.

Ting emphasized the long list of local, state, and federal government officials, agencies and taskforces that had condemned the commission. He stated his intent to keep all these institutions aligned not only to the purpose of keeping the college open, but to help California transition to a new accreditor, as called for by the state Chancellor’s task force last year and supported by the state Board of Governors.

Tim Killikelly stressed that the ACCJC’s action in creating a special new “restoration status” without due process was illegal, and will not stand up in court if the Commission attempts to shutter the college again.

Following presentations by representatives of the Diagnostic Medical Imaging program, the Bridge to Biotech program, the Speech and Debate team, and the Diversity Collaborative-Latin American Studies Department, Speier led a discussion with the crowd.

The 2016 Election: How did we do?

Throughout the Golden State, for the past several weeks, CFT members, leaders, and staff plunged into the election campaign with the intensity that comes from knowing first hand what was at stake.

“Anyone working in public education during the Great Recession a few years ago remembers what that was like for our students, our schools, and our colleagues,” said CFT president Joshua Pechthalt. “No one wanted to find ourselves in that situation or anything remotely like it again.” This was the reason why CFT’s first priority was Prop 55, and we have reason to celebrate that victory today.JeffEl11716a

Prop 55 gives public education the breathing space to continue to recover from years of cuts and underfunding, and with the 4 - 9 billion dollars in revenues per year coming from the richest Californians, it also helps address the core social problem of economic inequality.

At the same time, the national political scene has just experienced a tectonic shift. Pechthalt, in a message to members, said, “Rough night! I still can’t wrap my head around the notion that Donald Trump was elected President.”

We took heart from the election of Kamala Harris as the first African American woman Senator from California. As a daughter of immigrants, her election represents a triumph of our country’s best values in an election clouded by misogyny, xenophobia and racism.

Within the confines of California
If you look strictly within the confines of California, it was a pretty good night for CFT, public education, and the issues that our members care about. Six of nine ballot measures we endorsed passed, including Prop 58, which repealed the xenophobic Prop 227 that banned bilingual education.

In California state Senate races, ten of CFT’s endorsed candidates won, four lost, and one race remains too close to call. In Assembly races, 46 of 56 candidates endorsed by CFT won. And in California’s Congressional delegation, 29 of 36 CFT-endorsed candidates won.

[See all results on the Secretary of State’s website.]

Especially important to note is that a number of state legislative races, and some school board races as well, were overwhelmed with massive political contributions from the California Charter Schools Association, which has become a funnel for the efforts of “education reform” billionaires to expand charter schools and repel efforts to make charters operate more transparently and fairly. More than $24 million was spent by the CCSA in this election cycle. If it is true that “they have the money, but we have the people,” that notion will be put to the test in the next round of elections. A welcome exception to the losses in several of these races was the come from behind victory of Ash Kalra in Santa Clara over CCSA-backed Madison Nguyen.

Local races
Our members’ boots were on the ground in too many cities to cover them all here. Here are a few highlights.

San Francisco: In addition to electing a majority to the San Francisco Board of Education, United Educators of San Francisco, AFT Local 61, celebrated the ouster of the most anti-union board member. AFT Local 2121, representing faculty in the community college district, helped steer a parcel tax extension to victory, and ditto the progressive Prop W, which, through a modest increase in a transfer tax on ultra-luxury properties that sell for more than $5 million, will make City College of San Francisco tuition-free.

Across the bay, the Peralta Community College District Board of Trustees welcomed a new member, Karen Weinstein, courtesy of strong precinct walking and phone banking efforts by the Peralta Federation of Teachers. The Berkeley Federation of Teachers carried Measure E1 to victory, extending a parcel tax that brings in nearly a quarter of the Berkeley Unified School District’s budget.

A few miles south of San Francisco, the Jefferson Elementary Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 3267—with the support of Jefferson High School Federation, AFT Local 1481—pushed a parcel tax across the finish line in Daly City, marking the first time the area’s working class voters agreed to dig into their properties to augment school funding, with a spectacular 75% “yes” vote.

The two unions, with strong support from the San Mateo Labor Council, also worked on winning High School Board and City Council races. Says Local 3267 president Melinda Dart, “This, along with passing Prop 55, shows that people in Daly City really support their schools. The candidates we elected to both the High School board and City Council are also solid supporters.” One new council member attended Melinda’s elementary school, and the other has four kids in the district. The two locals also defeated a couple of charter school proponents.

The San Jose Evergreen Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 6147, supported three incumbent trustees, and all were returned to office.  The local also worked to pass a college bond measure, which passed with 66% of the vote (it needed 55%).

In San Diego, AFT Local 1931, representing faculty at the SDCCD, ran the largest Prop 55 phone bank operation in the city, with members and student interns calling thousands of union members and other voters, contributing to a 59% margin for the ballot measure in a conservative area. The phone bank also called about the winning Measure K, which moved city elections to November when more people can vote, and got union-endorsed Mary Graham elected to the SDCCD Board of Trustees.

In all, more than thirty CFT locals hosted phone banks, contacting thousands of CFT members about Prop 55 and other local priorities.

Summing up his view of next steps in a message to members, CFT President Pechthalt said, “Our task, once we have taken a deep breath, and reassured our children and our students that as Martin Luther King said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice”, is to organize and build the progressive movement. This is no less our task if Trump or Hilary Clinton were elected president. The conditions under which we operate will be very different but our job is the same. So hang in there, hug your kids, spouse, friends and dog. We will get through this. It may be rough but we are going to make it.”

 

Ballot Measures
CFT rec.  Outcome
53 N N
54 N Y
55 Y Y
57 Y Y
58 Y Y
59 Y Y
62 Y N
63 Y Y
66 N Y