When WE fight, WE win: Our Year in Review

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With the new school year right around the corner, the Caucus of Working Educators is getting ready to move forward by looking back at our biggest, most successful year in our short history.

How did our actions turn into wins? Here’s the short version: 

#Fightfor15 

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In November, WE joined forces with the Fight for 15 campaign and stood with fast food workers, home health care workers, and allies looking to ensure that all Americans earn a living wage at their jobs. Several caucus members took arrests and wrote about why. With a $15 minimum wage already a reality in several cities and states, our participation contributed to a national movement and ongoing debate about raising the wage in Pennsylvania. 

Black Lives Matter Week

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In January, WE organized our biggest campaign ever, all designed to get schools talking about racial justice. Black Lives Matter week featured suggested curriculum for teachers, an event or panel every evening, and t-shirts to show solidarity and get the conversation started. Over 100 schools participated, and Philadelphia Eagle Malcolm Jenkins spoke at the closing panel. The week set a new standard for how we talk about race in Philadelphia schools, and thanks to our model, BLM week will be going national next year, with other cities modeling their programs after ours.

 

Immigrant Rights AirportJess.jpg

Starting last November, WE started organizing to protect our students and families who were threatened by new immigration policies. We organized several information sessions, showed up at Philadelphia International Airport when Trump tried to turn away arriving refugees, and advocated tirelessly for the district to step up in its protection of immigrant students. As a result of our efforts, the District agreed to a mandatory training about immigrant rights for all educators at the start of this school year.

 

PFT Contract Actions

WE never lost sight of the fact that district educators were in their fourth year without a contract -- and we made sure that nobody else in Philly could forget it, either.

First, we designed printed those buttons announcing how many days it had been. And when 1,000 turned into 1,100, 1,200, 1,300+ days... we sent out updated images. 

 

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Then, we dropped a banner in the middle of the Labor Day parade to remind our union brothers and sisters that we needed their solidarity.

Next, we flooded Dr. Hite's office with written requests for the district to return to the negotiating table, delivered via pony, the internal mail system. 

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And then, we printed thousands of lawn signs letting people know that their friendly neighborhood educators neighbors were feeling the squeeze of no contract -- and also letting allies announce their support.

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All of these actions moved our contract battle into the public eye -- and brought us a long way towards a fair resolution with the district!

 

May Day of Advocacy

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When it felt like we might not see a contract before the end of the school year, WE decided enough was enough. Over five hundred educators from across the district took personal days and showed up in front of 440 to demand fair treatment, and then at City Hall in solidarity with Day Without An Immigrant. We got the entire city's attention -- including the front page of the Inquirer.

This “coordinated teacher absence” was not a strike, but the district still tried to punish educators for acting within their rights by withholding pay. This attempt was successfully shut down by PFT leadership, who did not endorse the action but supported its members after the fact. We showed the district that, even with the state prohibition on strikes, Philadelphia teachers can still take action -- and that action helped get the PFT to a contract offer the next month. 

 

Contract Information

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Before the contract offer was released, we started a petition asking that the PFT leadership give the rank and file a reading period before the vote. Thanks to our efforts, we went from a same-day reading period in 2011 to a three-day reading period for the new contract. When the new terms were released, we immediately built a wage and health care cost calculator to help the rank and file figure out exactly what the contract meant for them financially., organized contract reading parties around the city, and posed questions to the leadership about contract terms we did not understand. Our work helped the rank and file make an informed decision about their vote! 

 

 ...And Cool T-Shirts!

In addition to the massively popular Black LIves Matter t-shirts, we also did a limited run of PFT Local 3 shirts, in the style of one of your favorite sports teams.

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Missed the window? Don’t worry, we’ll be back soon with a new design, this time in the spirit of a different team!

 

So, What’s Next?

Our committees are hard at work making plans for the coming school year. We’re not a top-down organization, our best ideas come from members and their experiences in their schools, neighborhoods, and communities. Each of the campaigns described above was dreamt up and brought to life by educators just like you.

What that means is: What do YOU think the caucus should be doing next?

That’s right, we want to work with you! Become a member today or just shoot us an email at contact@workingeducators.org. We’ll help you figure out where you fit in the work.

It’s really that easy.

 

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It's Bigger Than Charlottesville

imagejpeg_1.jpgThis past weekend, our country witnessed a white-supremacist, neo-nazi rally storm through Charlottesville VA, intimidating counter-protestors and the community at-large, beating people of color, and causing the death of three people.

Let us be clear: we should not be shocked that—in a country literally built with the blood, tears, and forced labor of a stolen people, a country that has, even after emancipation, striven in various ways to maintain the effects of slavery and centuries of racial exclusion through discriminatory institutional practices—white American terrorists work to enact their agenda upon us all. What these events should force us to do is to both reflect upon and act against the racist ideas and forces that have led us to this point.

As school workers, we have a moral obligation to confront these ideas, work with our students to navigate their lived reality, and give them the time and space in their classrooms to discuss our world.

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WE Makes Immigrant Rights Training a Reality

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The WE Immigration Justice Committee is proud to announce that all School District of Philadelphia personnel will be trained to support the needs and rights of immigrant students and families.  

PeoplesInaug.jpgThe mandatory training was a central demand made by WE committee members during our spring organizing initiative. The District has committed to offering a 90-minute immigrant rights training to all teachers, principals, and support staff. School police officers and secretaries will also be trained at District Headquarters. 

AirportBanner.jpgThe District is looking for teachers willing to conduct the training at their schools or assist at other schools. If you care about making this program successful at your school, sign up for the training by logging on to www.PhilaSD.org and going into PD planner.Scroll.png

Here's how WE advocated for this program to happen:

During the fall, the WE immigration justice committee met with students, teachers, administrators, community members, and leaders from immigrant groups and immigrant rights organizations about how schools can support and protect immigrant students and families.

AirportJess.jpgThe committee then consolidated five policy recommendations in the following areas to be made to the School District:  limiting Immigration and Customs Enforcement access to schools; protecting the confidentiality around immigration status of immigrant students and families; providing language access; teaching educators awareness of immigration induced trauma; and creating hate-free schools. 

ForumWide.pngThe committee decided the best way for the District to implement these recommendations would be through a series of District-wide trainings.

In collaboration with students from the Newcomer Lerner Center, along with representatives from the Education Law Center, Juntos, the African Diaspora Global Initiative, and La Puerta Abierta organization, WE members and supporters testified before the School Reform Commission on May 18, 2017 asking that all School District personnel be trained in the five identified areas before the beginning of the 2017-18 school year. 

AiportKelley.jpgAfter the testimony, WE committee members met with School District leadership from the offices of Multilingual Family Support and Family and Community Engagement to understand how the District intends to implement the trainings.

Forum.Gym.jpgThe District has decided to host four train-the-trainer sessions in the middle of August to train educators to conduct the mandatory training in their schools. With the support of PFT and School District administrators, we are committed to disseminating the information for the train-the-trainer sessions and to recruiting educators to lead these important workshops in our schools. 

Please sign up today!

Trainers Wanted: Creating Safe and Welcoming Schools for Immigrant and Refugee Students

Please sign-up for a training AND speak to your building principal or administrator to let them know that you would like to help facilitate the training at your school. All school principals are required to provide this professional development session for all school-based staff. School principals can either deliver the session by themselves, or have a trained co-facilitator who is interested, willing, and available to assist them. The session will take 1.5 hours to complete and will be offered during the mandatory August school level professional development days (August 28, 29, 30).

PFT members with teaching experience are invited to receive training on a voluntary basis, should their school or another school leader seek a co-facilitator.

We encourage PFT members to take advantage of this opportunity to learn new ways to make sure our schools are safe spaces for EVERY child. 

The 1.5-hour train-the-trainer sessions will be held at 440 North Broad Street on the following dates:

  • August 14: 1:00 - 3:00 pm - Café 440

  • August 16: 9:00 - 11:00 am - Room 1071

  • August 21: 9:00 - 11:00 am - Room 1182

  • August 25: 9:00 - 11:00 am - Room 1080

At the end of each train-the-trainer session, the District will notify principals of who has successfully completed the training, so that principals know whom is available should they need assistance with the training.

Act 48 credits will be offered. Interested members should register using PD Planner.

For more information regarding this training opportunity, please email lsoderman@philasd.org or dromero@philasd.org

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Calling for Statewide Organizing!

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Are you from outside Philadelphia County?

We need you to join the statewide movement to make sure our schools have all the money they need and to keep our local schools under our own local control.

The only way we will win full funding and local control for all of our schools is when we build a coalition of advocates across the state. As Pennsylvanians, it’s the politicians in Harrisburg who decide our children’s future. When it comes to funding, high-stakes testing, graduation requirements, teacher quality, special education, arts, music, class size, career and technical education, we are all in this together.

Working Educators will do whatever it takes to create top-notch public schools statewide, and we believe that students, families, and educators deserve far more funding, support, and opportunities than are currently provided.

 

What’s the big deal about schools in Pennsylvania?

Public schools in PA are criminally underfunded and under the control of anti-student politicians. Harrisburg’s neglect of PA public schools is a national embarrassment.

Pennsylvania is ranked 49th in the country when it comes to state funding for schools. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have denied students in all counties their basic right to fully-funded schools, and allowed outside companies to come into our districts and take over our public schools. Because the state refuses to pay its fair share for public schools, homeowners in PA pay more and more in local property taxes every year.  The state wants us to be responsible for fully funding our own local schools, but then wants to take away our say in what happens in our own local school districts.  How is that fair?

 

How can we fix PA schools?

Plain and simple: the PA legislature must pass legislation that guarantees full funding and genuine local control for every district in the state.

If we move just a fraction of the taxpayer money that currently pays for corporate taxbreaks and kickbacks to the 1%, Pennsylvania schools could be fully funded, providing all students with the education they deserve. We are ready to solve the Keystone educational crisis--and to push out any politician who stands in our way. There’s no time to lose.

 

Why should I care?

Because you love your family, your neighbors, and your public schools!

Our movement for fully funded and locally-controlled schools is non-partisan and all-policy. Strong schools help build strong economies, for everyone. A system of funded public schools is the backbone of a functional democracy that works for all. And we will win this fight--if good people like you step up and join us.

 

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Advanced Degrees and the New Teachers Contract

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If you haven't yet noticed, the new PFT contract means that the District will again be honoring advanced degrees and graduate credits starting July 1st, 2017. Additionally, the contract has preserved the Senior Career Teacher status, which requires ten years of service, state certifications in two or more subjects, and a Masters degree plus 60 additional credits. 

Don’t let your salary losses accumulate more than they have to (see this chart compiled by the Caucus of Working Educators). If you have the credits, you can move up a lane immediately to Masters +30 and, once you hit your 10-year anniversary and earn an additional 30 credits, submit your paperwork for Senior Career Teacher.

This will significantly help minimize the amount of money you may have lost during the status quo contract freeze from 2013-17 and help you recoup much of that salary. 

You can examine the current Salary Schedule here.

(If you are not sure what salary schedule you are at, you can either multiply BASE pay on your paycheck by 21.7 or click here to go to the District's Open Data and search for your name under Employee Information. All of our salaries are public information.)

You can examine the District's requirements and protocol (both Masters + 30 and Senior Career) for Salary Upgrades here.

Once you have completed enough graduate credits (90 credits above your Bachelors, after having obtained a Masters) for Senior Career then make sure you have dual certification. You can view Teaching Certificates offered in PA here (Note: K-12 Certificates already pre-qualify as dual cert.)

You can register for your Praxis Exam here.

Finally, the following is just a short list of online courses priced under $400 for 3 credits. If you find more, please leave them in the comments section for others to see and so that we can edit this list as time goes on!

MAKE SURE TO VERIFY THAT A UNIVERSITY IS ACCREDITED BY CLICKING HERE AND SEARCHING FOR THE INSTITUTION PRIOR TO ENROLLMENT!

  • Andrews, Greenville, and Loyola Marymount through Advancement Courses (3 Graduate credits for $449) Up to 15% discount until June 30th using promo code SUM10 (10% for 1 or 2 courses) or SUM15 (15% for 3+ courses) https://www.advancementcourses.com/
  • Augustana, Colorado St. Pueblo, Lourdes, Marygrove, Pacific Lutheran through Learners Edge (3 Graduate credits for $425) Get $70 off each course until June 30th using promo PHLSDSU1707 (ordering one course) or PHLSDSU1754 (order two or more) http://www.learnersedgeinc.com/
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WE Awarded Bread & Roses Community Fund Grant

 

For four decades, Philadelphia’s Bread & Roses Community Fund has supported community-based groups in building movements for racial equity and economic opportunity. This support takes the form of fundraising, grantmaking, capacity building, and convening for real change—change created by people with the courage to stand up, the determination to join together, and the resources they need to create solutions for justice.

 

One of Bread & Roses’ major support mechanisms is the Racial & Economic Justice Fund (REJ), created to assist groups engaged in direct-action community organizing in the Philadelphia region to promote racial and economic justice at the local, state, national, or international policy levels. The Caucus of Working Educators (WE) is honored to be a 2017 REJ grantee, a distinction that will take our organizing work for systemic change in Philadelphia’s education system to the next level.

 

WE formed in March 2014 as a rank-and-file caucus of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers focused on racial, economic, and social justice. WE seek to support and energize our union through ever more member-driven union activity; advocating for transparency, accountability, and shared decision-making; and, strong contracts for and rights of our union members.

 

WE wage campaigns to hold School District leadership, PFT leadership, elected officials, and city, state, and federal administrators accountable to democratic values represented by public schools and public education. WE work to defend publicly-funded public education for all, with transformed curriculum and autonomy to teach, not test. WE work alongside the students, families, and neighborhoods of Philadelphia. WE seek a broad membership base of educators, parents, community partners, and other allies, and develop the leadership ability of those members.

 

This REJ grant from Bread & Roses will enable us to deepen our work of intensive in-person outreach and leadership development on the ground, creating spaces for capacity building and campaign organizing, and connecting with racial, immigrant, and economic justice movements in Philadelphia. Bread & Roses will officially recognize and celebrate the Caucus and all of the 2017 Racial & Economic Justice Fund grantees (among them the 215 People's Alliance, Asian Americans United, New Sanctuary Movement, the Media Mobilizing Project, Philadelphia Coalition for Affordable Communities, Youth Art & Self-Empowerment Project, and Youth United for Change) at the “On the Rise for Real Change” event on Wednesday, June 28, from 6:00 to 7:30 P.M. at Cultureworks Greater Philadelphia, 1315 Walnut Street, Suite 320. Pre-registration is required!

 

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A Report from the Floor of the Liacouras Center

IMG_4113.jpgIn this contract ratification process, the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers makes several steps towards allowing a more democratic and transparent system for the rank and file to review and understand the terms of the offer. Improvements to this process included:

  • Providing a two-day reading period for the contract terms
  • Running a webinar to review select points and answer questions about those points
  • Posting both a summary and complete terms of the change online so they could be accessed by all members
  • Making the procedure for the vote clear, and specifically clarifying that the vote was via paper ballot, not the symbolic voice vote.

The Caucus of Working Educators is pleased with this shift towards giving members a chance to review the offer. We assembled a “contract crunch team” to comb through the terms and make sure that any confusion could be explored and addressed and sent our questions to Jerry Jordan hoping for a response. We built a spreadsheet to help employees at all step levels calculate exactly what their future salaries would be under the new offer. We organized contract reading parties around the city on Sunday to help people make sense of the offer together, and supported members around the city in facilitating discussion in their own buildings the day of the vote.

All of these shifts made us hopeful that our vote at the Liacouras Center would have given us a chance to ask questions for clarity and have an honest discussion about terms that we did not yet understand.

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Unfortunately, the meeting consisted of a video, a Power Point presentation, and a move to call for a vote while dozens of members were still waiting to speak, with no opportunity to ask questions or gain the clarity we were hoping for.

When the call to close discussion was made, many members objected – and also questioned why others would seek to shut things down when they had the option to cast their ballot and leave the meeting at any time.

This shutting down of discussion and discourse threatens to repeat our path in 2010. At the last contract vote, when we had mere hours to review the terms, many members were confused about a clause on “Renaissance Schools” – a provision that was also approved without discussion, and resulted in dozens of schools being handed over to charter operators.

Shutting down discussion served no benefit to those who supported the move, and only alienated those who wanted clarity about the contract that defines our lives for the next three years.

To be clear: we are pleased with the result of the vote, in which nearly half of PFT’s membership voted – in contrast to 2010, where only 16% of members cast ballots. In our own internal poll, a majority of Caucus members also approved the contract offer, and we were excited to lend our support at the meeting while still seeking the clarity we needed to move forward in our work and our lives.

Every PFT member deserves a union that considers open debate and discussion a sign of strength, not weakness. WE believe that democracy makes our union stronger and will continue the push for discussion and transparency, into the next contract negotiation and beyond.

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Cast an Informed Vote on the PFT Contract Proposal!

Earlier this year, the Caucus of Working Educators surveyed PFT members across the district to determine what they most want to see addressed in a new contract.

 

ballots.pngThe top five priorities WE heard from our colleagues included compensation, health insurance, class size, building conditions, and retirement and pensions.

 

The proposed contract changes released to the PFT membership this past weekend address these priorities in important ways. We have shared this analysis to help PFT members make an informed vote about the contract offer. To be clear, we are not advocating members vote a particular way. We simply want to provide adequate information for all parties before they cast their ballot.

 

1. Salary

The tentative agreement attempts to make up for our lost time and money by giving PFT members multiple-step jumps, lump sum bonuses, and recognition of advanced-degree lanes into 2020. It also includes just one COLA increase of 2% in 2019 -- the only true raise given to the PFT between 2013 and 2020.

 

To see what your salary would be under this contract, go to:       www.tinyurl.com/PFTsalaries

 

2. Health insurance

All PFT employees will have to pay a percentage of their base pay into health insurance - 1.25% for the first two years, and 1.5% in the years thereafter. Covering spouses who are eligible for insurance with their own employers will incur a monthly charge of $50 for the first two years, and $75 after that. Keystone HMO premiums and Personal Choice copays are both increasing, and the Medical Insurance Opt-Out has been eliminated. Also, the District is making fewer payments to the PFT Health & Welfare Fund.

 

3. Retirement and pensions

The Commonwealth manages PSERS, and our contract does not codify any agreement between the District and our union on pensions. However, PFT members leaving the District for good may face other issues relevant to them in the future. Staff hired after July 1, 2017 will receive upon retirement only 75% of the paid-out value of personal days that current staff receive. Also, resignation/retirement decisions must now be made by March 15 instead of April 15.

 

4. Class size and 5. Building conditions

The tentative agreement does have provisions designed to help teachers teach and students learn, including teacher collaboration during common planning time and training in restorative justice. There were no contract improvements to building conditions or class size.


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Before you vote, please use this "Contract Terms: What’s There, What’s Not" flyer and this list of "Contract Offer Questions" to discuss what is most beneficial for your students, schools, families, and your profession. Bring your questions and concerns to the Liacouras Center on Monday so you are completely confident in your decision when it is time to cast your vote!

 

Additional resources to help you make an informed decision include:

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Questions? Contact us at contact@workingeducators.org

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Still have questions about the PFT contract proposal?

questionmark.pngWe’ve got until Monday at 4PM. How can you make sense of the PFT contract offer? Here’s how to prepare for the vote, in five easy steps:

 

1. Watch the presentation from Saturday’s PFT Webinar and read the changes to the PFT contract. Log on to the ‘members only’ section of the PFT website to access the information at PFT.org. Read the latest from the Inquirer, Newsworks and the Notebook.

 

2. Attend one of five Contract Reading Parties happening on Sunday, June 18 across the city.  Contact us at contact@workingeducators.org with any questions.

 

  • Center City:  10-11:30am at Chapter House (620 S. 9th Street Phila 19147)

  • Northeast:  2-3:30pm at Kate Sannicks-Lerner’s (684 Meadowbrook Drive, Huntingdon Valley 19006)

  • Northwest:  2-3:30pm at Nat Bartels' (7807 Ardleigh St. Phila 19118)

  • West:  4-5:30pm at Jesse Gottschalk’s (5118 Catharine St. Phila 19143)

  • South:  4-5:30pm at South Philly Tap Room (1509 S. Mifflin St. 19145)

 

3. Organize a Contract Reading Party at your school on Monday. Making sure every PFT member has the time and space to read the proposal and make an informed decision is crucial. Have a breakfast meeting before school. Meet up at lunch to talk. Or plan to get to the Liacouras Center as early as 4pm on Monday, stake out a spot for your school and meet there. Use the following resources to help guide your discussion:

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4. Prepare for the contract vote on Monday June 19 at 6:00pm (doors open at 4:00pm) at the Liacouras Center 1776 N. Broad Street at Cecil B. Moore Avenue.

  • Arrange childcare and transportation to the Liacouras Center. Carpool or take the SEPTA Broad Street Line to the Cecil B Moore station. (Here is the parking guide for the Liacouras Center.)

  • Wear your PFT red!

  • Bring a school sign or banner to the ratification vote so your staff can easily find each other and sit together.

  • Make sure you have each other’s cell phone numbers programmed into your phones before the meeting so you can find each other and communicate during the meeting.

  • Bring your postcard: Every PFT member should have received a red and white postcard in the mail, which is your ticket into the contract ratification vote. If you did not receive it, bring a photo ID and your most recent pay stub to the meeting -- and call the PFT office immediately at 215-587-6738.

  • Know what to expect: All 11,000 members of the PFT union are invited to the meeting to hear about the proposed contract changes and then vote yes to approve or no to reject. This vote always occurs via private ballot, which will be counted by an outside agency called the American Arbitration Association (AAA). There may be a symbolic voice vote, but the contract is not ratified or rejected until every member present at the meeting has their vote counted by the AAA. All PFT members are welcome to stay and witness the vote count.

 

ballotbox.png5. Vote using the paper ballot. As mentioned above, the voice vote is merely symbolic. It’s the paper vote that counts. REMEMBER TO COMPLETE YOUR PAPER BALLOT AND CAST YOUR VOTE BY PUTTING IT DIRECTLY INTO THE BALLOT BOX BEFORE LEAVING. You can vote as soon as the doors open at 4pm. Do not hand your ballot to anyone. Be sure your vote gets counted. Put it into the box yourself.

 

Have other questions? Contact us at contact@workingeducators.org

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Are You Prepared for the Contract Vote on Monday June 19?

This afternoon, PFT members learned that a tentative contract agreement has been reached and that the membership will vote on the proposal on Monday June 19 at 6:00pm (doors open at 4:00pm) at the Liacouras Center (1776 N. Broad Street at Cecil B. Moore Avenue).  

 

Screen_Shot_2017-06-16_at_10.16.04_PM.pngWhat happens at the vote?

 

All 11,000 members of the PFT are invited to the Special Membership Meeting/Contract Ratification Vote at the Liacouras Center to hear about the proposed contract changes and then vote 'yes' to approve or 'no' to reject the proposal. Voting occurs via private ballot, which will be counted by an outside agency called the American Arbitration Association (AAA). There may be a symbolic voice vote, but the contract is not ratified or rejected until every member present at the meeting has their vote counted by the AAA. All PFT members are welcome to stay and witness the vote count.

 

What should you do to prepare for the vote?

 

PFT Contract Webinar: Join the PFT Contract Webinar tomorrow Saturday June 17 at 10:00am. The PFT leadership will be sharing information and answering questions about key provisions in the new contract. To register for the Webinar, log in to the “Members Only” page at PFT.org.

 

Contract Reading Party: Schedule a before-school, breakfast or lunchtime Contract Reading Party at your school on Monday. Make sure every PFT member in your building has the opportunity to read and discuss the contract proposal and make an informed decision.

 

Contract Vote Postcard: Every PFT member should have received a red and white postcard in the mail, which is your ticket into the contract ratification vote. If you did not receive one bring a photo ID and your most recent pay stub to the meeting - and call the PFT office immediately at 215-587-6738.

 

Getting to the Vote: Arrange childcare and transportation to the Liacouras Center on Monday. Carpool or take the SEPTA Broad Street Line to the Cecil B Moore station. (Here is the parking guide for the Liacouras Center.)

 

Screen_Shot_2017-06-16_at_10.52.48_PM.pngPaper Ballot: As mentioned above, the voice vote is merely symbolic. It’s the paper vote that counts. REMEMBER TO COMPLETE YOUR PAPER BALLOT AND CAST YOUR VOTE BY PUTTING IT DIRECTLY INTO THE BALLOT BOX BEFORE LEAVING. Do not hand your ballot to anyone. Be sure your vote gets counted. Put it into the box yourself.

 

Want tips on how to organize a “Contract Reading Party?” Have other questions? Contact us at contact@workingeducators.org.

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