Joanne Waddell, President of Local 1521 speaks on Proposition 55 

CFT leaders help launch Prop 55 campaign

Supporters of Proposition 55, including educators, elected officials, parents and other community representatives, held a press conference in front of Hamilton High School in Los Angeles on August 15, kicking off the local campaign for the ballot initiative that will protect schools and students from losing up to $4 billion per year.

Speaking at the event were CFT president Joshua Pechthalt and AFT Local 1521 president Joanne Waddell, representing faculty in the Los Angeles Community College District, in addition to Steve Zimmer and Dr. George McKenna of the LAUSD Board of Education, CTA president Eric Heins, Celia Jaffe of the California State PTA, and others.

Prop 55 extends temporary Prop 30 tax on wealthy

Prop 55 would extend a temporary tax, Prop 30, passed by voters in 2012, for an additional twelve years.

Said Pechthalt, whose daughter is a high school student in LAUSD, “We are asking Californians to support extending Prop 30 by voting for Prop 55. Prop 30 has put more than 6 billion dollars in our schools a year. We estimate that Prop 55 will result in anywhere from 8 to 11 billion dollars. Those dollars are essential to making sure that California’s students are educated well. That’s not all we need to do, but it certainly is the beginning. My daughter depends on it, and her classmates depend on it.”Prop 55 Logo

Prop 55 will extend the modest Prop 30 state income tax increase on the richest Californians (singles who make $250,000 and up, and joint filers who make $500,000, pay an extra 1 – 3%) in order to continue restoring the thousands of education jobs lost during the Great Recession, and support the arts, PE, and other programs students need. Said Pechthalt, “California has set about providing a different pathway for all the United States, asking people at the top end of the economic spectrum, the people who have done the best in this economy, to pay a bit more so that we all can thrive together. And it’s been working. We can’t afford to go back.”

How Prop 30 restored community colleges

Waddell described the impact of the Great Recession on community colleges in Los Angeles: “The budget cuts forced us to cancel summer and winter sessions and reduce the number of classes offered so that it took students an extra year or two or three to complete their training, transfer, or graduate. We also had to cut essential services necessary for students to succeed, services like library hours, counseling, and tutoring. With the passage of Prop 30 in 2012, we slowly began the process of restoring the losses we suffered during the recession. As the budget continues to improve, enhanced counseling services will result in significant gains in student success – if,” she cautioned, “they…are…maintained.”

Budget forecasts show that unless voters extend the taxes on the wealthy, which would continue to bring in an average of $8 billion in annual revenues, California public schools will lose nearly $4 billion in the first year alone.joshlaunch2crop

A recent Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) survey found that 64% of voters support extending the income tax rates on the wealthiest individuals and couples to spare education and other vital services from a repeat round of devastating budget cuts.

Facing Bullets and Prisons, Mexican Teachers Stand Up to Education Reforms

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By David Bacon

On Sunday, 19 June, demonstrators blocked a highway - a common form of protest in Mexico's southern state of Oaxaca - after the federal government arrested leaders of the state's teachers union. Heavily armed police then fired on teachers, students, parents and supporters. Nine people were killed, and many more were wounded.

Nochixtlán, the town where the massacre took place, has since become a symbol of the resistance of Mexican teachers to corporate education reform. In the United States educators quickly responded to support their embattled Mexican colleagues, condemning the attacks and calling for the release of the imprisoned unionists.


CFT Convention 2016: Activate Labor for Justice

The 74th annual California Federation of Teachers convention, held in San Francisco and attended by nearly 700 delegates and guests, got off with a bang two hours after the convention began on Friday morning, March 11. That's when about half the convention delegates piled outside into a light rain and demonstrated in support of affordable, quality public education and the struggle of City College of San Francisco faculty for a decent contract in the face of its accreditation crisis.Protestors

The delegates marched a half dozen blocks to the law offices of the chief negotiator for City College of San Francisco administration, formed a huge picket line, and circled and chanted as thirty of their number sat down, blocked the doors of the building, and got arrested. They were peacefully cited and released, in the process attracting widespread news coverage.

Said Malaika Finkelstein, a delegate from AFT 2121 and one of the volunteers to commit civil disobedience, "I feel energized by the convention. I’m proud to be part of a union that cares so deeply about social justice. It showed in our discussions, workshops, resolutions, and in our actions in the street."

Inspirational speakers and moments abounded during the weekend, which was themed “Activate Labor for Justice.” A plenary panel discussion moderated by CFT vice-president Joanne Waddell on “Building Power” featured local CFT leaders Sergio Robledo-Maderazo, Amy Foote, and Zohara Kaye together with Texas AFT Secretary Treasurer Ray McMurrey, who brought the perspective of unionism from a right-to-work-for-less state. The latter presentation made clear that yes, unions can function in a right to work state, but public education is better off union-strong rather than union-free.

Emotional moments
Delegates heard from anti-racist activist Tim Wise, California Attorney General and U.S. Senate candidate Kamala Harris (by video), and labor historian and climate justice organizer Jeremy Brecher. Each provided thoughtful commentary. But the stage was stolen by two moments of high emotion by CFT members themselves.Rally Josh

In the first, Morgan Hill Federation of Teachers leaders Theresa Sage and Gemma Abels were the co-recipients of the Women in Education Award. Sage, who is blind, spoke first, describing her local’s successful fight against corporate charter takeovers in the Morgan Hill district. Abels, who was also deeply involved in that fight, talked graphically about her recent discovery of and struggle with stage four ovarian cancer. Tears flowed freely on stage and in the audience.

The same emotion bathed convention participants during CFT president Joshua Pechthalt’s State of the Union address. In his wide-ranging speech, Pechthalt spoke of the growing threat to labor posed by billionaire-backed legal assaults and public campaigns vilifying teachers and public education. He thanked the delegates for passage of a special dues assessment to wage the court battles and their vote to increase per capita dues to strengthen the organizing and political work of the statewide union. When he began to speak about the need for a single payer health care system, referencing his own health issues that cost his family thousands of dollars, he had to stop. After he struggled twice more to continue, his daughter raced to the stage and hugged him as the crowd rose to its feet with a resounding standing ovation and solidarity clap.

Resolutions and policy
The five CFT resolution subcommittees debated thirty resolutions before sending the top three from each committee to the convention floor. Among them, Resolution 11 called for a return to free higher education for all. Resolution 29, debated after Jeremy Brecher’s presentation on climate justice and unions, committed CFT to pursuing a climate justice agenda. And resolution 30 established a task force to explore a new name for CFT, reflecting the changes in membership over the years from a mostly K-12 teacher organization to one representing a broader swath of education employment.

[Final resolutions will be available in this space within a few days.]Floor Audience

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.

Friday’s workshops, offered in two banks, presented a large menu of diverse topics. These included recent developments in educational technology, reclaiming the promise of racial equity, retirement issues, and educating immigrant youth. Saturday’s workshops focused on the CFT's Building Our Power program, providing skills and insights related to strengthening the union’s capacities to organize, mobilize and especially defend our rights and public education itself in the face of the anti-union privatizing forces arrayed against us. The Friedrichs Supreme Court case, perhaps the most visible of the current attacks on labor and education, was but one of the many instances discussed.

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 Shannon Willson, the Legislator of the Year award was bestowed upon Assemblyman Jose Medina, and John Perez, now head of the CFT’s retirees’ division, a former UTLA leader, received the Ben Rust Award.Jazz Ensemble

In short, as usual, the CFT convention provided an intense and revivifying experience for its hundreds of participants. As Oxnard high school teacher Ben Todd put it, “It was a weekend of important activities that truly tied in with the convention’s theme, “Activate labor for justice.” I am grateful for the opportunity to attend and represent my local.”

See photos on the CFT’s Facebook page. Videos on the need to extend Proposition 30, the battle for fair accreditation, and presentations by keynote speakers will be posted in this space soon.

News coverage
“Teachers’ protest jumpstarts major conference in San Francisco”, California News Service
• “California Teachers cited during protest over contract talks,” Merced Sun-Star
• "City College Faculty arrested during protest over contract talks," CFT Press Release
• “City College Faculty arrested in contract protest,” Bay City News
• “CCSF educators arrested during sit-in protesting direction of contract talks,” San Francisco Appeal

Campaign kick-off for Prop 30 extension, now Prop 55

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Joanne Waddell, President of Local 1521 speaks at Proposition 30 extension kick-off press conference.

Campaign kick-off for Prop 30 extension, now Prop 55

On May 11, 2016 in Sacramento, in front of California Middle School, leaders and members of unions and community groups stood before a large group of reporters and announced that the coalition they belonged to had just turned in more than a million signatures to place the "California Children's Education and Health Care Protection Act" (now Prop 55) on the November state ballot.

CFT vice president Joanne Waddell said, "During the recession colleges and universities cut classes, laid off faculty and staff, and increased tuition and fees, pricing higher education out of the reach of many working families. We don't want to go back to class cuts and skyrocketing tuition rates.  Our children, our puiblic schools and our community colleges cannot afford tax cuts on the wealthy."  Waddell is also president of the Los Angeles College Faculty Guild, AFT Local 1521.   

This measure, now Proposition 55, proposes to extend Proposition 30.  Prop 30 has been a game changer for public education in California.  The new ballot measure will ask to extend the top bracket income taxes for the wealthiest 2% of Californians, and drop the modest sales tax that had been part of the original Prop 30.  The revenue will help ensure that California continues to move forward toward funding education for all students from pre-school through university.Signature gathering resize

Prop 30, a temporary tax passed by California’s voters in 2012 by a 55 - 45 margin, saved the state’s public sector by pumping $7 – 8 billion per year into state coffers from two sources.  About a billion dollars comes in from a one quarter of one percent increase in the sales tax, and the other six billion or so dollars originates in three tiers of 1, 2, and 3 percent bumps on taxpayers making $250,000, $300,000 and $500,000 per year.  Thus it is a mostly progressive tax, with the regressive portion—the sales tax—expiring at the end of this year.  The final year of the tax on the wealthy will be 2018, unless it is extended.prop30 extension 3 web 2

“We cannot afford to let Prop 30 expire,” says CFT president Joshua Pechthalt.  “Thanks to Prop 30, we have only just begun to restore the programs and positions lost to the Great Recession.  Without this tax, which asks millionaires to pay a little more in taxes so that all of us can benefit, public education will return to the devastating years of budget cuts, layoffs, and skyrocketing class sizes and tuition increases.”  CFT is partnering with the CTA, SEIU, and other unions to pass the extension.

Proposition 55 will extend the tax on the wealthy for twelve years.  You can help by contacting your local to find out how to help register voters, make presentations to community groups, and get resolutions of support passed by your school or college board.  

Activists work hard in week-long training

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The CFT's annual summer school kicked off on Monday, June 22, in Pomona at the Kellogg

Conference center with rank and file members of the CFT's locals attending from all over the state.  Classes kept the union activists busily engaged with nuts and bolts union skill-building led by CFT staff and leadership.  The majority were first-time attendees at the popular training.  "It's a bit overwhelming," said one member from the ABC Federation of Teachers. "But as a newly elected local leader, I can already see how valuable this will be for me and the local."

View Union Summer School photos on Facebook.

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Members of the ABC Federation of Teachers came out in force to attend the bestowal of the Ben Rust Award, the CFT's highest honor, on former CFT Senior VP Laura Rico (center, front row, holding award).  Rico, who was also a vice president of the national AFT and AFL-CIO, closed her acceptance speech with a favorite Mexican saying, "They buried us but they didn't know that we were seeds."

Manhattan Beach—"Inspiring and well organized," was how AFT 2121 president Tim Killikelly described the 73rd annual California Federation of Teachers’ convention, held over the weekend of March 20-22 in Manhattan Beach.

Five hundred convention delegates—K-12 teachers, early childhood educators, community college instructors, classified employees, and UC librarians and lecturers—from all corners of California got the opportunity to discuss and debate the issues facing public education and our communities, and to decide union policy for the coming year. They attended workshops, heard from elected officials and education experts, and voted for the leadership that will steer CFT’s efforts for the next two years.

Keynote speakers

A strong list of distinguished speakers provided information and entertainment.

State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson noted the importance of renewing Prop 30 "or something just like it" so that we can continue to restore programs cut during the Great Recession. He criticized those who “unfairly blame teachers for the problems in public education."

State Controller Betty Yee thanked CFT for putting Prop 30 before the voters. She credited the measure with California's current budgetary stability, and shared her own story to emphasize its importance, since as an immigrant she did not speak English when she arrived in school and the San Francisco schools became her lifeline. She noted that economic opportunity for all doesn't happen without school, the great equalizer, and without Prop 30, it was much harder for schools to play that critical role.

Another convention highlight was the appearance of former Oakland high school teacher and San Francisco State professor Jeff Duncan-Andrade, who shaped his presentation around rapper Tupac Shakur's poem, "The Rose That Grew From Concrete." In a wide ranging, challenging and sharp edged talk, he spoke to the need to meet low income students where they are. He spoke of the varieties of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) faced by low income students, and showed the data that found that one in three had experienced some form of trauma producing PTSD and compared it with that of combat veterans, which the Pentagon pegs at one in six.

The crowd appreciated his critique of the corporate takeover effort, focusing on Pearson, the giant publishing company. Duncan-Andrade got everyone to agree to shout out "Pearson!" whenever something in the presentation went wrong, which people continued to do during the convention long after Duncan-Andrade had left.

The convention heard from Cruz Batista Salvador, one of several family members of forty three Mexican students “disappeared” last year. He described the struggle to find out what happened to these students in the context of draconian education reforms. The students had been protesting the reforms.

Carl Williams, Southern California vice president of the Classified Employee Council, received several standing ovations during his presentation on the often overlooked role of classified employees in providing quality public education. His talk concluded with a list of jobs performed by classified employees, as the stage in front of him filled with delegates who do that work, each wearing a hat to symbolize “we wear many hats.”

State of the Union

In a detailed, wide ranging and passionate State of the Union address, CFT president Joshua Pechthalt reviewed the accomplishments of the past two years and laid out his vision for the coming period. He highlighted the struggle for fair community college accreditation, the court fight against the deceptive, corporate-driven Vergara lawsuit, and many local struggles. But he reserved the bulk of his speech to analyzing the economic crisis and the need for a comprehensive solution to society's problems, widening the picture to understand that the only way to allow schools to successfully grapple with the problems that walk in their doors with their students is to fix the problems at their root. He pointed to Proposition 30’s successes, but warned that the progressive tax measure only restores part of the funding lost during the Great Recession, and that California still has a long way to go before reaching the national average in per-pupil spending.

Officer and Council Elections

The delegates expressed their approval of the current direction of CFT by reelecting statewide officers Joshua Pechthalt (President) and Jeff Freitas (Secretary Treasurer), along with twenty three of the current twenty four vice presidents. Freitas was reelected by acclamation; Pechthalt, in a contested election, won 93% of the vote.

The constituency council elections featured contests for president in the EC/K-12 Council (Rico Tamayo, of the El Rancho Federation, prevailed over Francisco Rodriguez from the Pajaro Valley Federation, and succeeded Gary Ravani, who stepped down after two terms) and the Classified Council, where incumbent Paula Phillips, Berkeley Council of Classified Employees, turned back the challenge of Velma Butler, Los Angeles College Staff Guild. In the Community College Council, eight part timers vied for four slots, and the winners were incumbents John Govsky, Linda Sneed, Amy Roberts, and Linda Chan.


CFT recognized retired Assemblymember Paul Fong for his years of service on behalf of public education, and former San Francisco Community College Federation of Teachers president Alisa Messer with the “Women in Education Award” for her steel under fire, leading AFT 2121 through years of attack by the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges.

Former CFT Senior Vice President Laura Rico accepted the CFT's highest honor, the Ben Rust Award, after a storied career in which she served for many years in the ABC School District as an early childhood educator, local president, CFT senior Vice President, AFT vice president, and AFL-CIO vice president. She led the last K-12 strike in the CFT, in 1993, which after 8 days taught the district that it is better to collaborate with the union than run an authoritarian top down district. She credited her colleagues, the members of the ABCFT, numerous others, and her mother, who gave her the example and courage to stand up for what she believed in. She closed with a Mexican saying, "They buried us, but they didn't know we were seeds."

First time CFT convention delegate Liza Mardoyan, a school nurse from Newport-Mesa, said, "I was pleasantly surprised; the convention was more invigorating than I expected. I really liked the fact that there was a lot of talk about political activism. It gave me a roadmap of where we are, and where we stand as locals, and where do we go from here. It clarified how our small local efforts are connected to the big picture of affecting change through legislation. I also regret there wasn't twenty of me to go to all the workshops."

View Convention pictures on facebook

Friday, March 20
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Saturday, March 21
Sunday, March 22