Women Make These Schools Work!

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This year, Working Educators is taking a deep, hard look at how working conditions in our buildings are affecting women and families.  To celebrate Women’s History Month we are taking March 27th to acknowledge the sacrifices our hard-working, largely female union has made to ensure that the children of Philadelphia receive an excellent education.  

After leading a series of focus groups with PFT members about how to improve working conditions for families, the following wishes emerged:

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WE Endorsement Process for 2018 Primaries

The Political Committee of the Caucus of Working Educators will be embarking upon its endorsement process for the upcoming May 2018 Primary Elections.

All members of the Caucus and PFT are welcome to participate in the process and sit on the interview committees, especially if they live in a candidate's respective district, in an effort to keep everything as transparent as possible.

Our two Meet-the-Candidate interview events are scheduled for April 13th and 20th (Fridays) from 4pm to 6pm at St. Stephen's Green (1701 Green St.), so please plan on attending! All are welcome!

All interested candidates should complete one of the questionnaires below (click link for survey) and RSVP for one of the dates above:

PA State Legislature

PA Lieutenant Governor

US Congress

Contact: WE Political Secretary, George Bezanis, at gbezanis@gmail.com or 267-625-0616

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When the PFT Went on Strike

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On February 11th, 1973, thousands of educators rallied outside the prison where PFT president Frank Sullivan and chief negotiator John Ryan were being held for being in contempt of court.

By Sonny Richman and John Ryan

Retired PFT Members

With today's student actions and the strike in West Virginia, memories of the PFT's history are stirred.

February 2018 marks the 45th anniversary of the month of the greatest example of professionalism, courage and responsible militancy by the membership of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. They stood up to the most powerful mayor in the nation, his union-led educational team, the state and federal judiciary system – as well as opposition from editorial boards.

The PFT membership had already struck for almost the entire month of September, 1972. They went back to school to hear a fact-finding report--it was a disaster. The fact-finder declared that he could find anything he wanted to. Popular wisdom said that once members ended their strike, they would not go out again.

The membership proved this belief wrong by going on strike again on January 7, 1973. The mayor and his team pushed one court case after another. The Commonwealth Court declared the strike illegal and issued an injunction against all members. Despite this judicial threat, at the urging of PFT leadership, most teachers did not return to work. Arrests were made on the picket lines.

Trials were held for contempt of court. Members were losing money due to withheld salaries. The mayor's police force arrested, booked and jailed educators - sometimes more than a hundred at a single school.

The members continued the strike.

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What the District Says about March 14 Walkouts

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There has been a national call for students to participate in a 17-minute walkout on Wednesday, March 14th.

In a recent letter to all principals, the School District has stated that “should students choose to walk out, discipline should not be imposed.”

The letter suggested several steps educators should take in advance of any student action, including reviewing safety procedures with students before the day, and having them scan back into the building upon returning. 

The Caucus of Working Educators supports any students who choose to take part in this action – and we thank the District for recognizing “student’s rights to self-expression and awareness of social issues.”

If conversations about this day have not yet started at your school, talk with your colleagues and fellow administrators now about what plan makes sense for your building.

The District is asking you to get organized so your students have a safe and effective walkout experience!

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Thank you, West Virginia educators, for giving us hope

UPDATE: After 4 days shutting down the entire state, WV educators won a 5% pay increase, 3% increase for all state employees, plus no premium increases or benefit cuts to their healthcare.

By Diane Isser, Tilden Middle School

In a state where collective bargaining for public employees is illegal and public employees are barred from going on strike, West Virginia’s teachers and school employees have organized to protest the issues that plague public school teachers across the country: low wages, rising insurance costs, and poor working conditions. The Caucus of Working Educators stands in solidarity with these striking teachers.

With the Supreme Court’s decision in the upcoming Janus v. AFSCME case looming large, all workers should take a lesson from the West Virginia teachers who are showing the rest of the country what worker power can look like in even the most hostile climate.

Through bottom-up organizing, West Virginia teachers and school employees have built power across three different unions. In doing so, they have garnered popular support across the state by rightly asserting that what is good for teachers is good for students.

Thank you, West Virginia teachers, for giving us the hope we so sorely need right now.

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For more background on how these educators got organized:

"West Virginia Teachers Launch Statewide Strike" in Labor Notes

"West Virginia Teachers Are Showing How Unions Can Win Power Even If They Lose Janus" by Lois Weiner

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Help the "Group of 50" Attend the AFT Convention!

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We are thrilled to share that this past December, a group of women came together and decided that we wanted to run for AFT delegates with the Caucus of Working Educators. We prioritized recruiting women of color -- they make up 50% of the slate -- and made the slate open to gender non-conforming candidates as well.

Most importantly, we chose to run for just half of the 100 slots, making it possible for candidates from both slates to attend. We are all committed to learning more about our union, and we want to learn alongside our current leadership!

Here are just a few of our candidates -- your own coworkers, neighbors, and PFT family! As the tagline says, "We are capable, collaborative AND committed to the union." Please support them in their wish to attend the AFT Conventions this summer and next!

Ballots are already in the mail to homes- make sure to mail yours back by February 22nd!

Meet more of the inspiring candidates on our slate below:

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Show Your Solidarity With Black Lives Matter This Week!

The Black Lives Matter Week of Action starts tomorrow!

Remember to wear your Black Lives Matter t-shirts and buttons this week!  Pick a day - starting tomorrow - that works for your building to wear and take a group picture.

  1. Take selfies and group shots in your t-shirts and buttons
  2. Post them on social media using #BLMPhlEd and #BlackLivesMatterAtSchool
  3. Email: blmphled@gmail.com and we'll share it.
You'll join educators and students for their t-shirt actions all over the country - from Seattle, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, Boston, and more.
 
Join the week of action for a full calendar of events below:


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Teaching About Activism in the NFL

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Philadelphia Eagle Malcolm Jenkins speaking on a panel during the 2017 Black Lives Matter Week Of Action. Jenkins is of one of many NFL players who have taken a political stand both on and off the field in recent years. 

This year’s Black Lives Matter Week of Action (February 5-10, 2018) takes place the week following Super Bowl 52, the culminating moment of an NFL season which featured powerful, high-profile displays of activism. While the initial purpose of the #TakeAKnee movement was muddied after Donald Trump’s incendiary remarks, it’s important to consider the initial goal of Colin Kaepernick’s action: to call attention to the persistent injustices faced by Black people in the United States. It is shocking to consider that what provoked so much discussion in September and October has been nearly eliminated from the popular conversation at the end of this NFL season.

The articles and lesson plans below contain a variety of approaches to covering activism in sports, from a deep dive into responses to NFL protests to a consideration of their place in the history of sports activism to an analysis of the rights of students and teachers to protest to an inquiry into why the energy around this activism dwindled towards the end of the season.

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Coming Off The Sidelines For Black Lives Matter Week

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During undergrad, I was taught that teachers should be blank slates when it came to any political issue. I was taught teachers should never attempt to influence students or touch on what some would consider sensitive issues. For the first few years of my teaching, I went along with this philosophy. When students asked me questions, I would say, “develop your own thoughts.” I would tell them it wasn’t my place to share my opinion. 

Then, I began teaching at a school in Dekalb County, right outside of Atlanta.

The student population at this school is about 60% African-American and 40% immigrant and refugee. When I started teaching there, I realized for my students, much like myself, everything was political. When your body is at risk, everything from the way we fund and teach in schools to who we elect as president is political. I couldn’t and wouldn’t stand in front of my students and refuse to take a stance on issues that mattered to their bodies. When one student’s mother was deported, she rightfully went into a tailspin. Had I stood in the front of the room and said I didn’t have an opinion on immigration, I could have lost her forever.

I still agree students should develop their own opinions, but I no longer believe I should keep my own a secret.

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Community Orgs, Academics Support Black Lives Matter Week

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The Black Lives Matter Week of Action (#BLMPhlED #BlackLivesMatterAtSchool) - this year, taking hold at the national level - is grounded in a larger movement for social change. This work does not only happen in schools -- it relies on organizations and individuals of all kinds to build and sustain grassroots power as we work for racial and economic justice.

Who else can get involved? 

Community Organizations

For the second year in a row, organizations are signing a statement of support of the Black Lives Matter Week of Action in our schools.

In addition, many are signing on to co-organize and cosponsor work and events before, during, and beyond the week.  These include an opening panel with LGBTQ youth of color at the Penn LGBTQ Center; an open conversation on domestic violence and sexual assault with the Philadelphia Home and School Council, Mazzoni Center, and the Philadelphia Writing Project; and a roundtable on colorism at the Community College of Philadelphia.

This is the work that truly makes a Week of Action in our schools possible!

Are you part of an organization that would like to sign on to support the week or do you have ideas about how the week can support your own organization's work? Click here to add your organization to the list, and email BLMPhlED@gmail.com with any questions.

Academics and Institutions of Higher Education

Similar to last year, scholars, faculty, and staff in institutions of higher education are circulating a letter of support for the week of action, beginning Monday, January 15. In addition to signing a statement of support, higher-education educators are also incorporating the 13 BLM guiding principles in their courses Feb 5-10 and participating in events on their campuses.

The efforts to support student leadership, expanded dialogue, and deepen community connections are highlighted during the week but intended to continue long outside of the week of action. Students, faculty, and community members are partnering to organize ways to support and strategize ongoing racial justice and equity in their local universities and schools.

Want to sign the statement of support?  Click here to add your name.

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