The amazing 2016 election work of CFT members, officers and staff

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Prop 55 mailer

Prop 55 mailer

We are a voice for our
students mailer

The election is just a couple days away, and we want to share with you the outstanding work that CFT members, leaders, and staff have done to ensure victory for Prop 55, Kamala Harris, Hillary Clinton, and dozens of CFT’s state and local priorities.

Our top priority this year has been to pass Prop 55, an extension of 2012's Prop 30, which maintains a tax on the wealthiest Californians to provide as much as $8 billion a year in revenue to fund public education and healthcare.

In the last week of September and early October, more than twenty CFT locals held "walk-ins," staffed literature tables, leafleted, created human billboards along busy streets, and held press conferences under the auspices of the national Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools (AROS) to spread the word about the importance of fully funding public education by passing Prop 55.


 Watsonville members hold a Day of Action for Prop 55

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

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El Camino College classified and faculty members hold phone bank at a member's home.

CFT staff and members have been working in ten Central Labor Councils, and member volunteers are participating in those and many more CLC programs across the state.

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Morgan Hill Federation of Teachers President Gemma Abels launches a canvass from South Bay Labor Council.


While California is not a battleground state in the Presidential election, CFT members pitched in nonetheless by attending the Democratic National Convention in July and by volunteering to canvass in battleground states like Nevada, Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. More than fifty CFT members stepped up and traveled to key states to make sure that Hillary Clinton is the next President of the United States.

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Jefferson Elementary Federation of Teachers President Melinda Dart and Glendale Faculty Guild member Andra Hoffman at the DNC in Philadelphia.

CFT leaders and members demonstrated their support for Prop 55 by phone banking at CFT events throughout the fall, including at the September State Council meeting, the Council of Classified Employees Conference in October, and weekly in remote locations around the state via the CFT’s Strategic Campaign Initiative (SCI) program.

CFT leaders Josh Pechthalt, Jeff Freitas, and Paula Phillips call classified members about Prop 55 at the CCE Conference in October.
  •  And there's much more! A few impressive stats:
  • Members distributed thousands of Prop 55 flyers, CFT slate cards, lawn signs, stickers, and buttons at their worksites.
  • Among the many locally-hosted phone banks, Local 1521, the LA College Faculty Guild, hosted weekly phone banks, dialing over 28,000 CFT members, September through November.
  • At least 27 local school boards and boards of trustees passed resolutions in support of Prop 55.
  • CFT members overwhelming support Prop 55, with 87% of ID'd members saying Yes on 55.
  • Over 100 CFT members were trained on Prop 55 talking points and speaking techniques at CFT Speakers Bureau trainings held statewide.
  • CFT gave over $1,000,000 in contributions and in-kind services to help pass Prop 55.
  • For the general election, CFT gave $274,000 to state legislative candidates, $76,200 to local candidates, and $44,000 to local measures. For the first time, CFT used a "press one" autodial call that asked members to affirm their support for Prop 55. This call dialed to over 40,000 CFT members.
  • CFT members will receive GOTV text alerts for the first time ever.
  • In our eleven targeted state legislative races, thousands of CFT members received candidate-specific mail pieces and robocalls.
  • CFT members received four pieces of mail from AFT and 3 pieces from CFT, featuring members, about our endorsed propositions and candidates (see top of page).
  • In addition to Central Labor Council release, CFT staff are released directly to four Prop 55 campaign offices statewide.
  • The great work of CFT members has been featured in publications across the state including articles in the LA Times and an op ed in the San Diego News-Tribune.
  • Members have also been featured in videos focusing on the impact of Prop 30 and the need to pass Prop 55. 

All our hard work is paying off, but the fight isn't over! You can help us cross the finish line by volunteering at your local Central Labor Council or with your local union during GOTV weekend. The GOTV schedule for labor councils around the state can be found here. You can also contact Jessica Ulstad, CFT's Political Field Director at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for more information about how to get involved.

Onward to Election Day! 

Paid for by the California Federation of Teachers COPE and Prop Ballot Committee

Prop 55 campaign gathers momentum with local events

Prop 55 Uncle Sam

UCI lecturer Andrew Tonkovich showed how patriotic it is to support Prop 55.  Kneeling next to him is Garden Grove mayor and former Tonkovich student Bao Nguyen.

October 17, 2016 (Orange County)—Andrew Tonkovich was dressed up as Uncle Sam, complete with pasted-on white beard. He clutched a thick sheaf of Prop 55 flyers in his hand, just a few steps away from a table with more literature, buttons, posters, voter registration forms, and an urn of free coffee, which he explained was to “stimulate” conversation about Prop 55. As the UC Irvine students passed by on the way to and from class, Tonkovich tirelessly threw out his hooks: “Are you registered to vote? Do you know about Proposition 55? Talk to Uncle Sam, who wants you to vote for Prop 55! Would you like some free coffee?”

The students who stopped and listened to the stimulating conversation learned that if Prop 55 did not pass, schools and colleges would lose billions of dollars in funding from the state of California. The students also found that their fees at UCI would likely go up. Student fees at the University of California have held steady since 2012 when Prop 30, the temporary tax on the wealthiest Californians, was voted in by the electorate. Prop 55 would extend Prop 30 for twelve years. Although Prop 30 does not directly fund UC and CSU, by freeing up other monies in the state general fund it has kept fees from increasing in both higher education systems.

Tonkovich, a lecturer in writing and president of his UC-AFT local, was joined in his effort by the presidents of nearby Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers (Britt Dowdy), and Coast Federation of Educators (Rob Schneiderman); the mayor of Garden Grove, Bao Nguyen, a UCI alum and former student of Tonkovich; Mary Ann Gaido, candidate for mayor of Irvine; the local UC-AFT staffer, Honora Keller; and a sprinkling of community volunteers. The results after a few hours? Several students were newly registered to vote; hundreds went home with Prop 55 literature for bedtime reading; and a radio story.
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Press conferences, rallies, and other public activities are taking place throughout the state with the help of CFT members and our coalition partners to build public awareness and pass Prop 55. Speaking:  student Emily Flores.

Press conference 

Later that afternoon at Back Bay High School in Costa Mesa, Dowdy spoke at a press conference for Prop 55. He noted that, “In the Newport-Mesa Unified School District, approximately $4.2 million of the budget is attributed to funds related to Prop 55.”

Appearing with Dowdy was Schneiderman, who said, “Without Prop 55, the Coast Community College District would lose about $20 million per year, which is 10% of our total budget.”

Also at the press conference was Coast classified president Ann Nicholson, board members from each district, teachers from Santa Ana and Tustin, a PTA leader, and CSU student Emily Flores, whose father Joel teaches at the high school and pulled the event together. The press conference netted a small story in the local newspaper, the Daily Pilot.
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Phone banking for Prop 55 in Sunnyvale:  L-R Janet Werner, Raji Visvanathan, Linda Brummer.

How to get involved

As we count the days down to November 8, activism has been welling up within CFT’s locals across the state, and the accumulation of many individual efforts is having an impact. Members are staffing the phone banks, walking precincts, holding political conversations with family, friends, and neighbors, and participating in public events like those in Orange County to draw attention to Prop 55, CFT’s top priority this election.

Click here to find out how you can plug into Prop 55 activities between now and November 8.

CFT accepts award for pesticide reform work

Francisco pesticides front pageTuesday, July 12, 2016—Today, as CFT members joined with coalition partners in Sacramento to rally for protection from agricultural pesticides for students, the Californians for Pesticide Reform bestowed an award on the CFT for its local and statewide efforts to make schools near fields safer.

One hundred and fifty demonstrators converged on the Sacramento offices of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Pesticide Regulation (DPR) for the rally. The coalition delivered more than 27,000 petitions demanding protections for children from exposure to pesticides in schools.IMG 6237

“We’ve waited too long for DPR to unveil their plan to protect children in California from chemicals that are associated with some truly horrific health harming agents that are affecting our children, including cancer, asthma, ADHD, autism, and damaging effects to their neurological and reproductive systems,” said Ana Barrera, Salinas public school teacher and labor delegate for the Salinas Valley Federation of Teachers. “With the new school year fast approaching, it’s time for DPR to act.”



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