BFT support Oakland

Wear #RedforEd Feb. 15th to support Oakland teachers

Before the end of the month, teachers and educators in the Oakland Education Association may go on strike for reasons nearly identical to the historic UTLA strike last month. OEA members are fighting for a living wage, smaller class sizes, and more student support. They are fighting for respect.

Here are four things you can do to show your support for Oakland teachers, as they take a stand for their students and their profession:

  1. Wear #RedForEd on February 15th. This Friday has been set as a statewide day of action in support of Oakland teachers. You can participate by wearing #RedForEd with your colleagues on that day, posting photos on social media using the hashtags #RedForEd and #Unite4OaklandKids, and by tagging @CFTunion and @OaklandEA.
  2. Donate to the OEA Membership Assistance Fund. OEA has set up a fund to provide financial support to assist their most vulnerable members in the event of a prolonged strike. The CFT is already in the process of donating to the fund, and we ask that you consider doing the same.
  3. Donate to Bread for Ed: Bread for Ed is an effort to provide food for those students and teachers who won't have access to such resources if they stay out as a result of the strike. There are 37,000 students in the district, the vast majority of whom depend on free or reduced priced lunches.
  4. Walk the Picket Line or Adopt a School: If a strike does happen and you live in or around Oakland, please consider walking the picket line during the strike at your closest neighborhood schools. If you are out of the area, please consider adopting a school.

Thanks again to all for supporting our sisters and brothers in Oakland!

utla settlement pic

UTLA members went on strike and won for public education

January 23, 2019

Yesterday the members of United Teachers of Los Angeles ratified their new contract, ending the six-day strike that has captivated the state and the nation, and paving the way for teachers to their classrooms this morning.

The historic agreement includes many of the key goals brought by the UTLA bargaining team, including strong language reducing class size, increased staffing of nurses, counselors and librarians, limits on testing, and the establishment of community schools.

The successful UTLA strike was only possible because of the courageous stand of over 30,000 LAUSD educators who were willing to put everything on the line for their students and their schools. The tremendous resolve of these educators, and the parents, students, and supporters who stood with them, shows the power of communities rallying behind their public schools in the face of great odds.

Thanks to the thousands of CFT members and supporters who signed the CFT petition urging the LAUSD to settle the contract, and to those who gave their support on the picket line and via messages of solidarity on social media. We have received word from UTLA members that the tremendous outpouring of support from across the state and nation helped sustain them on the picket line.

Time to fully fund our schools

The impact of the successful UTLA strike goes far beyond the boundaries of the Los Angeles Unified School District. The successful strike also represents a sea change for the state of California, as there is now strong momentum to raise critical revenue for education that reflects a broad commitment to fully fund our public schools.

CFT President Joshua Pechthalt laid it out clearly in a powerful op-ed published last week:

“The state must act. California is the 5th largest economy in the world, but we are a dismal 43rd in the nation in per-pupil spending. Without fully funded schools, California students will continue to be denied the education they deserve. And without dramatic action in Sacramento, teachers and school workers will likely be out on the picket line very soon in school districts throughout the state.”

A great place to start addressing the underfunding of our schools is the Schools and Communities First initiative. Along with community and parent allies from throughout the state, the CFT was instrumental in qualifying the initiative for the November 2020 ballot. The initiative would close a loophole in current tax law that allows legacy commercial property owners to evade paying property taxes based on fair market value and would restore more than $11 billion per year to California schools, community colleges, health clinics, and other vital local services.

But we should not stop there. All options to bring stable, long term revenue back to our schools and colleges must be considered, including taking a strong look at the carried interest loophole and other corporate tax breaks that funnel money out of our schools in order to pad corporate profits.

We heartily congratulate our sisters and brothers who went on strike and won for public education in Los Angeles. Now, we must all stand united to demand fully funded public schools for every student in California!

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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

Janus web cover day of2

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.