So, What Does An Internal PFT Election Look Like?

Did you know that the PFT Constitution calls for an internal election every 4 years? Federal law requires that the members of all unions democratically elect their leaders, and the next PFT elections are due in early 2016. Here's who we will vote for:

  • 9 Executive Officer positions (including President),

  • 27 Executive Board members

  • 260 delegates to AFT conventions

The Collective Bargaining (CB) Team is the caucus that has held the leadership of our union for almost 30 years. Because they “ran” unopposed in a ceremonial election in 2012 and 2008, many of our colleagues have never participated in an actual internal election! However, as PFT members, we can nominate candidates, form slates, and run for these seats. Our involvement is essential to protect our rights and maintain a healthy and strong democratic union.

The timeline for this election is set by the current leadership. We are waiting for the current PFT Executive Board to adopt new nomination and election procedures and release them to the membership.

However, there is a template for how this election should go. Based on the 2012 Nomination and Election Procedures published by the PFT, here is the potential timeline:

  • An election committee will be formed, with members of any group presenting a slate included.

  • Nominations for candidates will be due in early January 2016.

  • Slates will be drawn up, and ballots will be mailed to members in early February.

  • Members will then mail their secret ballots to the American Arbitration Association to be counted.

If you're interested in learning more about how PFT elections work, read over the 2012 Nominations and Elections Procedures. Then get involved to help build a member-driven PFT!





Le Bok Fin: What Do We Value? What Are We Forgetting?

If you were around in Philly this summer, then you probably have heard about Le Bok Fin -- Philly's the "hottest new bar" stationed on top of the former Bok Technical High School.  As working educators and community members, many of us in WE and TAG were deeply upset about this type of development in our city.  
Although the narrative of development says: "a building shouldn't remain empty" -- we wanted to push back against that type of market-driven logic and remember that Bok's current status is the result of a massive slashing and gutting of our public schools' budget, on top of the historic disinvestment we've seen in Philadelphia's public schools for decades, and the subsequent disaster-capitalism-type shuttering of 23 schools in 2013.
Gentrification often depends on a certain amount of "forgetting" -- i.e. how the space used to function, who inhabited the space and benefitted from its resources.  Educators and community activists came out to talk to bargoers about the real story of Bok Technical High School, to ask the question, "What do we value in Philadelphia?" and to share a vision of stable communities and equitably-resourced public goods that benefit youth of color in our city.
Check out the video from the September Action at Bok Technical High School. 

Beyond The Bell: How to Log Your Extra Work


What has your building organized around the work to rule campaign? No matter how you are approaching that initiative, we encourage your staff to take the next step and start reporting how much extra time you put into your job each day beyond what's mandated by our contract -- that's both what you do for your own work, and what you do to close the gaps due to layoffs and budget cuts (that do not fit in your job description.)

Try it for just one day using this quick and easy form, and then we can send you a toolkit to calculate the number for your entire building!

We also encourage you to share the ways that you and your colleagues go above and beyond for our schools every day using the hashtag #beyondthebell. Writing college recommendation letters at midnight? Finding a full parking lot when you get to school at 6:30am? Rushing to the store for a copy-paper sale? It's time to lift the curtain on everything that we do!


When does 4 + 1 = 6?: When Combs replaces a republican on City Council

ggroup.jpgIn the November election, Philadelphia voters can choose five candidates for City Council At-Large. Five candidates will be elected from the Democratic Party. In addition, the two highest vote-getters from all other minority political parties will also be elected and take their place on City Council. Traditionally, that has always been two Republicans.


On November 3rd, instead of using all five votes for Democrats (who are virtually certain to be elected), vote for Kristin Combs -- public school teacher running for an at-large seat on Philadelphia's City Council with the Green Party.

The goal is for one of the minority party seats to instead go to the Green Party and bring a much needed progressive agenda to City Council.  Five democrats and one green will help move Council to the left on a variety of issues affecting working people across Philadelphia.


Combs' platform includes fully funded public schools, local school control, charter school reform, an end to school closings, restorative justice, a living wage, paid sick leave, collective bargaining rights for all workers, fully funded pensions, an end to private outsourcing of public sector jobs, and an end to corporate welfare.  For more information:

                                                                          Website -




What Deep Organizing Looks Like: The Real Work-to-Rule Campaign


Below is the original Work-to-Rule Campaign proposal from WE that was proposed at a meeting between the Caucus of Working Educators (represented by Yaasiyn Muhammad, Kelley Collings, Larissa Pahomov, Ismael Jimenez, Delilah Washington, and Amy Roat) and the PFT leadership (represented by Jerry Jordan, Dee Phillips, Evette Jones, Hillary Linardopoulos, and George Jackson) on July 24, 2015.

The original plan details a 5-month-long membership-driven organizing campaign -- involving parents, community members, and other unions in our buildings -- that galvanizes a united front against the resource starvation and budget crises faced by our schools under the 15-year-long SRC rule.

Instead, what the PFT leadership handed the membership was an eleventh hour email the Friday before the so-called work-to-rule actions were to occur.  

work_to_rule_2.jpgLet's be clear on the difference between deep organizing and shallow mobilizing.  Deep organizing makes us stronger as a union.  Deep organizing demands that we have solid relationships with each other as PFT members.  Deep organizing requires that we develop authentic power-sharing partnerships with parents and community members as we fight for the resources our students and school deserve. The Caucus of Working Educators is committed to deep organizing that leads to effective direct actions. Anything less than that does a disservice to our students and our schools.


Effective work-to-rule actions take months to organize. The campaign at Mifflin Elementary is an example of effective, authentic, thorough organizing and should be lifted up as such.

As we struggle at our schools to decide how to respond to the PFT leadership's last minute work-to-rule directive, let's look for ways to honor and support each other as rank-and-file members engaged in grassroots organizing in our schools. Any schools seeking advice on planning an action can contact Mifflin Teacher or Caucus Co-Chair Kelley Collings at



Contract campaign proposal for work-to-rule actions



The contract campaign will run from August through November 2015.



The purpose of the campaign is:

(1) to build consensus among all public education stakeholders (rank-and-file teachers, parents, community members, and students) about what has been taken away from Philadelphia public schools over the last 15 years;

(2) to build consensus among all public education stakeholders about what all stakeholders have done to fill the void left by the budget cuts;

(3) to build political will among all stakeholders to wage a week-long work-to-rule action that will demonstrate publicly what Philadelphia public schools would be like without the extra volunteerism of teachers, parents, and community members.



The structure of the campaign is as follows:

1.    Chapter meetings: 

Each school will hold a PFT Chapter meeting as soon as possible after Sept 2 (with teachers, paras, counselors, nurses).  Rank-and-file members will use butcher block paper to answer the following questions:  What did schools look like 15 years ago (even 5 years ago)?  What do we do now as educators to fill the void?  What do we do now for free – in the name of the students – to compensate for the systematic starvation of our schools.

2.    Community/parent/student meetings: 

Each school will hold a meeting with parents, community members, and students in late September or early October.  Parents, community members, and students will use butcher block paper to answer the following questions:  What did schools look like 15 years ago (even 5 years ago)?  What do we (as parents, community members, and students) do now to fill the void?  What do we see educators doing to fill the void?  Where possible, these meetings can happen at Back-to-School Night.  If it’s not possible to make this part of the official Back-to-School Night, PFT members can use Back-to-School Night to distribute flyers and turn folks out for upcoming meetings (that can occur onsite/inside or offsite/outside of schools) that would be scheduled within a week of Back-to-School Night.  At the end each meeting, we pose the question:  “What would it look like if we all stopped doing these extra things for one week to send a message to the politicians that we refuse to be starved anymore?”  We use the opportunity to get folks on board for the week-long work-to-rule action.

3.    Week-long Work-to-Rule Actions

In mid-October schools across the district will stage a week-long work-to-rule action co-organized by educators, parents, community members, and students.  Specific actions will be decided at the local school level and will be designed to demonstrate the devastating effects of systematically starving our schools of the funds and resources they so desperately need.

4.    Culminating action

The week of local school work-to-rule actions will culminate in a huge city-wide action (rally, march, or other type of direct action) in mid-October designed to publicly and visually display unmistakable unity among educators, parents, community members, and students for what Philadelphia public schools need.


Miscellaneous thoughts/ideas/questions:

  • We could kick off the campaign at a PFT general membership meeting in August with a direct action immediately following the meeting.  For example, we could all pour of the meeting into the streets with picket signs and march to a strategic target with a demand. (Another possibility is to kick off the campaign on a Tele-townhall call.  This is less ideal since it won’t capture the kind of energy and momentum that a meeting & direct action will capture.)
  • This could be shared in Building Representatives meetings in Sept with rank & file leaders introducing the campaign alongside PFT staffers.  This would signal to the Bldg Reps that this is a membership-driven campaign.
  • Explore the possibility of getting an article in the Notebook’s fall issue around this campaign.  Have a teacher/parent/student/community member write an editorial.
  • We need to come up with a name for the campaign.  Possible campaign messaging:
    • Stop the Starvation
    • Then & Now (posters & flyers)
    • The slow death/ruin/decimation of public education
    • We’ve been in the pot on the stove for 15 years now, and the water is boiling
    • Remember school when…
    • Remember when public education was…
    • Remember when public education meant…
    • Public education:  THEN & NOW
    • We need a tool to harness stories (from educators, parents, community members, and students) publicly using social media
    • We need to pull in the Kenney and Gym campaigns
    • We need to pull in parent groups: H&S; Parents United; Action United; POWER
    • We need to pull in student organizing groups:  YUC; PSU; Phila Youth Poetry Movement; Philly Youth Commission
    • We need to pull in other unions within the SDP: 1201; 634; CASA




What Equity Looks Like: Caucus Response to Action Plan 3.0

On Thursday, September 30th, SDP Superintendent William Hite announced that he will continue to continue to disrupt the education of thousands of Philadelphia students by implementing Action Plan 3.0.  

Superintendent Hite claims that the plan to “phase out” two schools and turn three more over to Renaissance Charter operators must be implemented in order to  “deliver on our vision of equity.”  Why does that vision include closing or causing upheaval in schools that are in struggling neighborhoods and have been denied adequate resources for years?

Here are a few ways that this new plan is anything but equitable, and examples of how things could be done differently:

  • Two years ago, the school communities of Steel and Munoz-Marin had the chance to vote on whether to accept outside charter operators. By contrast, this new plan was designed without any teacher, parent, or community input. Schools were only informed of their fate early Thursday morning.

  • When Steel and Munoz-Marin faced their vote about possible charter takeover, the current staff were given an opportunity to present their own plans for the school. Why are no district teachers being given the opportunity to speak for their own schools?

  • The three schools suggested for Renaissance charter takeover--Cooke, Huey, and Wister--are all in neighborhoods where the educational fabric has already been cut to pieces by encroaching charters. That they would also eventually be put up for charterization is not an accident.

  • The possibility of naming up to three turnaround schools means that all of the staff will automatically be removed from the school, and only 50% can return. By contrast, when a school applies for a “redesign,” they can keep all of their staff. Why does a “turnaround” require that students be separated from the teachers they trust?

Hite’s letter to teachers also claims that the SDP has “made progress obtaining the necessary resources to adequately serve our students and families.” Unfortunately, the biggest new resources are ones that push teachers towards more assessment, such as the “Driven by Data” handbooks that teachers at Central High School collected to resell so that they could raise funds for paper.

In fact, most educators can tell you that since 2013, there has been a consistent stripping of resources, both human and material.  Most school lack a full time nurse and school counselor.  Most schools lack safety personnel to supervise students before and after school, as well as in the halls during the school day. Most schools have one secretary and most principals struggle without an assistant principal to guide their schools. The district does not have the right to label schools as failing and ripe for overhaul in these conditions.

Philadelphia’s Caucus of Working Educators is already working to support students, teachers, and community members who wish to defend their schools from takeover or closure. Any educators who are looking for support can reach us at


[Photo from WE Sign-Making Party for MLK D.A.R.E
(Day of Resistance, Action, and Education) Protest early this year]

PFT Leadership Fails to Endorse Teacher for City Council

On Tuesday, September 29th, the PFT leadership voted against the endorsement of public school teacher and PFT member, Kristin Combs, who is running for an at-large seat on city council as a Green Party candidate.  

Comb.Collings.Muhammad.jpgIn rejecting one of their own members, the PFT leadership failed to endorse the only teacher candidate running on a strong education and labor platform.Combs' platform includes fully funded public schools, local school control, charter school reform, an end to school closings, restorative justice, a living wage, paid sick leave, collective bargaining rights for all workers, fully funded pensions, an end to private outsourcing of public sector jobs, and an end to corporate welfare. The Caucus of Working Educators is outraged that such a strong teacher leader would not receive the endorsement of the current PFT leadership.

Rather than support a teacher whose campaign is dedicated to creating the schools Philadelphia’s children deserve, the PFT leadership instead voted to endorse an Independent with no labor support, as well as a Republican who pledges to maintain the SRC as-is.

The responsible thing  – both for its own members, as well as for the future of public education in Philadelphia – would have been for the PFT to endorse Combs’ candidacy.

The PFT leadership failed its members by their refusal to endorseCombs’ for city council.  As members of the PFT, the Caucus of Working Educators is organizing to enhance, not ignore, teacher leadership. We vehemently reject this decision and proudly support Kristin Combs for city council.


How to Arrange A Work-To-Rule Campaign: One School's Story

This past summer, the Caucus brought a proposal to the PFT executive leadership to run a city-wide work-to-rule campaign. The purpose of such a campaign would be to have educators work to the exact letter of their contract for a limited time only, in order to highlight the great lengths that we go to every day to hold our schools together. The PFT did not adopt this as a universal campaign, but did recommend it as a possible action schools could take this fall.

Two essential pieces are educating families in advance of the action and running the campaign for a limited time only. The purpose is to reveal to the public just how many gaps educators fill, not to use that extra work as a bargaining chip. 

Below is the story of how Mifflin Elementary arranged their Work To Rule Campaign. Reported by Caucus Member Pamela Roy.

I am on the building committee at Mifflin, and last week we voted to do a work to rule action October 5th-9th. The first step was for the building committee members to reach out to all other members of the building to explain what it means and why we're doing it, to get them on board. A coworker and I worked on a letter to parents explaining the same, which will go home at the end of this week.

Link to Letter Mifflin sent out (with detailed description of their actions)

Link to PFT template letter (with handy "how you can help" section for parents to contact SDP and the SRC)

During the week, we plan to support our colleagues in strictly following the contract. This means we are in at 8:20 and out at 3:09. No extra help offered to students on our lunch break, or contacting parents after school hours. No clubs will be held. No helping out with monitoring the schoolyard or cafeteria before 8:20 or dismissal procedures after 3:09.

We are also doing an extra action per day. Monday we are wearing PFT pins (such as the ones that say "Respect" or "Every child deserves a school nurse everyday"). On Tuesday we are writing and sending emails to elected officials to lobby for full, fair funding. Wednesday, we will do the same via phone. Thursday is PFT red shirt day, and on Friday, we will gather after school for happy hour off campus to debrief and talk about what went well, and what didn't.

The purpose of the action is for our parents and community members to understand how much extra work and effort we put in above and beyond what we are contractually required to do. Remember, parents are our allies, and it is important for them to help them see the current state of our schools due to current budgetary conditions.

If you are interested in a similar action at your school, and would like additional information about how we organized ours, feel free to contact me at with questions. 


Vote Philly! Public Schools Need Youth and Families to Vote! - Register to Vote Online Now!

Registering Students & Parents to VoteA strong turnout of Philly youth and families on Election Day can have a great impact on our city and the state, especially during midterm and primary elections when so few people vote. On November 3rd, we will cast ballots for Mayor, City Council, and the important Pennsylvania Supreme Court seats that could decide the balance of the court and the future of public education in Pennsylvania.

1. Register High School Seniors to Vote: CLICK HERE!Pennsylvanians can now register online!!!

If students will be 18 by November 3rd, get them to register now. They can do it on a smart phones! The deadline to register to vote is always 30 days before the election (October 5th, 2015).

If you prefer to use paper registration forms, contact with the number of forms you need for your students. We will send the forms to you via school district pony mail.


2. Research the ballot with your students.

Start with these nonpartisan resources:

-Committee of Seventy

-Philadelphia City Commissioners


Then research media coverage and endorsements from a range of organizations. 

3. Have Students Find Their Polling Places.

If a student knows they cannot make it to their polling place, they must apply for an absentee ballot before Election Day. This is especially important for students that go to college in the fall.

4. Election Day!

Remind students to get to the polls and to go as a family!

First-time voters must show a photo ID at the polling place.



Building Rep's Corner: How can I overcome apathy in my building?

Welcome to the Building Rep's Corner, an advice column for union leaders written by experienced PFT building representatives. If you have a question you'd like to ask, or would like to contribute a column, please email us at!

Dear Building Rep’s Corner: With all the other challenges in the school day, I have trouble motivating members in my building to get involved with union issues or events as well. What can I do?
Apathetic in Philly
~ ~ ~
Patrick Sommer, Autistic Support Teacher and Building Rep, Greenfield Elementary

Dear Apathetic in Philly,

I do not know how much of an expert I am, but I will share my experiences with you. I'm entering in my 21st year of teaching and have witnessed staff interactions towards the building rep each year. I try to participate in as many pertinent activities as I can and encourage colleagues to do the same.

You will, most likely, face a lot of apathy. This is our biggest problem as a union. HOW DO WE GET PEOPLE TO UNDERSTAND THAT WE ARE THE UNION?!  You will probably hear a lot of complaints, i.e.; "Why doesn't the union do this?  Why doesn't the union do that?  I wish that we could just..."  

Some people are so fed up that they do not even want to hear any details of what is going on or what they can do.  Some people say that they just wanted to vent, when they complain and I try to offer possible solutions or tactics that could lead to a solution down the line. Many feel powerless.

I tell people that I recognize that everyone can not partake in everything, but I find it hard to believe when people have an excuse at every turn to participate.  It's not that hard to get a good number of colleagues to do informational picketing before school starts (especially if there's coffee and donuts), but, as you've seen, it's hard to get people to canvass, phone bank, etc.

I try to share as much information as I can with our colleagues through email and face to face connections. I would say that talking to a colleague one to one, or even in a small group, such as those with the same lunch/prep time works better than the mass emails, but the emails are still important, especially for those that you've already been able to talk to one on one.  

One of the ways I was immediately able to build face to face connections with my colleagues was through informational picketing on Friday mornings before school in May and June 2013 and 2014.  I started out as the building rep in May 2013. This just happened to coincide with a informational picketing campaign initiated by the PFT in early around the same time. I asked colleagues at Greenfield to join me in conducting informational picketing EVERY Friday through the rest of the school year. Wendy Coleman did take note of Greenfield's extra informational picketing efforts from the onset.  Jerry Jordan even stopped by once in 2014 and 2015 (I'm sure Greenfield's proximity to the PFT office played a part in this, but, nonetheless, it was good for staff morale). In addition, some students and parents participated. 

It's still hard.  People are frustrated and scared.  With all positions being site selected and leveling being site selected (as principals simply need to write a "compelling reason"), people are afraid to be removed from their current position and forced to interview for a job for a position they were already interviewed for years ago.  Some people state that what they do doesn't matter and that the powers that be are going to do whatever they want to do anyway.  There are other reasons too, of course.  If someone is willing to talk things through with someone who is active, then there is a chance to change that person's perspective.


Read more