post election

Tony Thurmond wins SPI race!

Updated November 19, 2018

Following a hard fought campaign, Assemblymember Tony Thurmond has won the election to be California’s next Superintendent of Public Instruction.

Across the state, teachers and school workers celebrated Thurmond’s election as a resounding call by voters to protect public education. Fighting the headwinds of unprecedented spending by a handful of billionaires and mega-donors in support of Marshall Tuck, Thurmond ran a campaign based on investing in all public schools and supporting all students.

“We congratulate Tony Thurmond on his hard fought victory,” said CFT President Josh Pechthalt. “California voters saw through all of the mudslinging and misinformation pushed by a small group of billionaires, and wisely decided to elect a lifelong advocate for at-risk students and a firm believer in the power and promise of public education.”

“With his experience helping at-risk students and his lifelong commitment to public education, Tony Thurmond is ready to get work on day one to help our schools,” continues Pechthalt. “We are looking forward to working with him to ensure that all students receive a quality public education, and that charter schools are held to the same standards of accountability and transparency as our public schools.”

Thanks to all of the CFT members who campaigned for Tony Thurmond, for Congressional races, and in their own local elections. Your efforts have made a real difference in the election.

This election we helped take back the House of Representatives, including winning several key races in California. The candidates and ballot initiatives that we supported at the local level were also successful. Candidates endorsed by CFT locals won 75% of their local school board and trustee elections, and an impressive 80% of local parcel tax and bond measures have passed.

We also helped elect Gavin Newsom as California’s next Governor. Gavin, who ran on an unabashedly pro-public education platform, will be a strong advocate for more resources for our schools, colleges, and universities. He has also pledged to hold charter schools accountable.

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Lessons for Labor Day 2018: Solidarity Works!

It has been the worst of times and the best of times for the American Labor Movement in 2018.

Economic inequality has continued to spiral out of control as policy coming out of Washington, DC designed to tilt the scales in favor of the rich and corporations weakened the rights of working Americans at every turn. At the Supreme Court level, anti-labor justices joined the assault against labor and undermined public sector unions’ rights to collect dues. This, combined with a tax bill that radically redistributed wealth upward and paved the way for new austerity measures aimed at gutting Social Security and Medicare, had some pundits sounding the death knell for unions and the legacy of the New Deal.

But in the midst of all this dire news, a funny thing happened: workers fought back in the unlikeliest of places. West Virginia, Arizona, and Oklahoma were hit by massive teacher strikes and huge protests demanding higher pay for educators, better conditions for students, and an end to the underfunding of public education.

They shocked the world and won.
In response to the Supreme Court decision aimed at diminishing the ranks and resources of public sector unions, labor activists across the country went back to basics, expanded their organizing efforts, and turned an existential threat to the union movement into an opportunity to revitalize their memberships.

Most recently, just a couple of weeks ago in Missouri, the labor movement won a resounding electoral victory against an effort to gut collective bargaining. There, as in the teachers’ strikes, workers were supported by a general public that even in more conservative regions is increasingly more supportive of unions, fair wages, quality education for all, and access to affordable healthcare.

So it seems that at a time when many Americans are afraid of losing ground, beleaguered unions, particularly those who chose to fight rather than lie down, have come to be seen as the answer for what ails us. By standing together, maybe ordinary people can win back some of the power that they’ve lost over the last several decades.

The only political mechanism American workers have ever had to address the economic and political power imbalance in our society is the labor movement and that is why most Americans should care about its fate, whether they are in a union or not.

Unions may not always be able to do everything for their members, but as part of the last 12 percent of American workers covered by collective bargaining agreements, union members have been able to hold the line better than most. Hence the survival and revival of the American labor movement and/or some aligned movement for economic justice are the last best hopes for the American dream.

Perhaps that’s why after the big win in Missouri, the New York Times editorial board argued that that victory “and the popular support for teacher strikes in red states show that unions have the wind at their backs for the first time in a long while. That is welcome news for long-suffering American workers.”

As Robert Reich points out clearly in Inequality for All, unions were a significant part of the building of the American middle class. This was true because of their capacity to bargain for a better economic future for their members and their ability to influence our politics and give workers a real voice in our system.

The consequence of this is that average Americans were able to make that system work for them, whether that was by instituting programs like the GI bill, Social Security, providing affordable access to higher education, or one of the many other key policies that led to what Reich calls the “great compression” of the middle 20th century when inequality fell and the standards of living for American workers dramatically improved.

With the drop in union density over the last 30 years has come a record level of inequality, reduced political power for American workers, and a renewed assault on many of the rights in the workplace that we had come to take for granted. But with an emergence of the red state teacher strike wave, new organizing, and wins like the defeat of the anti-union “Right to Work” (for less) in the Show Me State, there may be signs of light emerging from the darkness.

The shared concerns that drove the teachers’ strikes were centered around working-class bread and butter issues: decent pay, adequate benefits, support for the public sector that serves everyone, and workers having some autonomy over their lives. Perhaps, if we can learn to talk about class again in a manner that encourages people to feel connected to each other across other differences, we can start building the bridges that will help form the kind of grand coalition of ordinary folks that can win a better future.

Solidarity is the only antidote to the hate and division that has been used to successfully build power on the Right. To build solidarity you need “big tent issues” that allow people to recognize what connects their interests with those of their neighbors.

This is the key lesson of the strikes and of American labor history as a whole: when working people can find common cause across differences, they win. When they allow themselves to be divided, they lose.

That’s why bosses and undemocratic leaders of all kinds hate solidarity.

The plague of economic inequality is not a technical issue in need of technocratic “solutions.” It is one of the grand moral dilemmas of our age — how do we live together in a way that provides fairness and dignity for all? The simple answer lies in putting working people’s issues first rather than the desires of Wall Street and the billionaire class.

The neoliberal hegemony of the last 30 years, with its unquestioned love of one market under God, inequality be damned, has been a net loser for the majority of working Americans. If we offer more of the same, anti-egalitarian forces will continue to win by cynically stoking the anger born out of conditions they have created. If, on the other hand, we seize the day and pivot to a politics of solidarity, there may just be a light at the end of the dark tunnel in which we are presently lost.

As members and supporters of the labor movement, we are the keepers of the flame. This Labor Day let’s all commit to sticking with the union, keeping the fire of solidarity burning, and building for a better future for ourselves, our families, and our communities.

In Solidarity,

Jim Miller, Vice President of Political Action

AFT Guild, San Diego and Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community Colleges, Local 1931

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The Janus decision is an attack on our voice and on public education

This morning in a 5-4 ruling the U.S. Supreme Court decided in favor of Mark Janus in the Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 case. The ruling overturns decades of precedent and eliminates the ability of public sector unions to collect fair share, or agency fees.


CFT faculty leaders to testify on California’s Master Plan for Higher Education

The Assembly Select Committee on the Master Plan for Higher Education has scheduled a public hearing on Friday, May 4, at UC Riverside to examine how to meet the needs of faculty and staff to best support our students.

mcleod mciverCFT is proud to have two distinguished leaders serve on the faculty panel: Mia McIver, president of UC-AFT, and Jonathan McLeod, vice president of the AFT Guild, San Diego and Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community Colleges, AFT Local 1931.


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.


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.


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
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