A contract for teachers is a contract for the whole city
by Jessica Way, PFT Bldg Rep, Franklin Learning Center, & Ismael Jimenez, PFT Bldg Rep, Kensington CAPA
Like you, we love our students. We bend over backwards to make sure they get what they need. The same is true for our coworkers. We have seen our fellow educators raise thousands of dollars for clubs, trips and projects. We have seen them stay at school until late in the evening, uncompensated, because there are no EC funds. We have seen them repeatedly take on additional duties without compensation – roster chair, dean of students, test coordinator, teacher leader, extracurricular activity director – because “somebody has to do it.”
Despite years of work in under-resourced, understaffed schools, we still have no contract that ensures schools are safe, staffed, and stable. We deserve a contract that demonstrates respect for our expertise, education and compassion. As PFT Building Representatives, we have heard tragic stories that involve fellow teachers taking 2nd & 3rd jobs, defaulting on student loans, neglecting home repairs, and paying their mortgage late.
We are fighting for our students, our schools, and our lives. On May 1st PFT members, parents and allies from across Philadelphia will be making the brave choice to stand up and speak out on behalf of our students and schools by participating in the “May Day of Advocacy for Public Schools”. At schools across the city large percentages of staffs will not go to work in order to take part in a series of protests.
The tentative schedule is as follows:
7:30-8:30 am: Pickets at schools with staff, parents & community in solidarity
10am: Demonstration, rally & press conference at 440 North Broad
March to City Hall
11am: Visits to City Council members and the Mayor at City Hall.
12pm: Un Día Sin Immigrant, Black & Brown Bodies rally at City Hall
4pm: PFT Educator Exit Rally Lea Elementary, 4700 Locust St
March to Clark Park
5pm: May Day Rally at Clark Park, 43rd and Baltimore
March to Happy Hour (across the street)
7pm: Happy Hour at Clarkville, 43rd and Baltimore
Do you want to get involved and join the action?
- Sign the Statement of Support for the "May Day of Advocacy in Philly Schools"! Everyone -- educators, parents, community organizations, education advocates, politicians, and allies -- is invited to sign on and help spread the word.
- Encourage friends and organizations to join in! Members of POWER, 215PA, PASNAP, Tuesdays with Toomey and dozens of others are joining us in solidarity. Please reach out to your networks and ask them to stand with us.
Be creative! Help make the rally and march to City Hall truly special. Musicians, artists: we need you! Make a sign that will get the media’s attention.
Help make the big banner -- wide enough to cover the entire front of 440! You have to see it to believe it! Contact Jessica at firstname.lastname@example.org for more info.
This is a grassroots organizing effort led by rank-and-file educators at local schools*. Families will be notified in advance and invited to participate in the day of action to fight for the schools our students deserve. Staff at Taylor and SLA organized a similar day of action on International Women’s Day with no disciplinary repercussions and strong parent support.
The SDP acknowledged this as our legal right: “Absences due to participation in protests should be treated like any other request for a day off. The School District of Philadelphia respects the rights of District employees for self-expression, however, nothing must deter us from our primary objective – the education of the children of Philadelphia."
*This effort is not sponsored, organized or endorsed by the leadership of the PFT or any members of the PFT Bargaining Team. The actions of rank-and-file members have no bearing whatsoever on whether the district can declare an impasse in negotiations. Only actions taken by the PFT leadership can trigger an impasse in negotiations.
PFT Contract = Safe, Staffed & Stable Schools
On Friday, October 14th, the School District of Philadelphia announced raises for employees who work at the central office (440 N. Broad Street) while excluding their colleagues who are represented by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.
Hundreds of hard-working individuals will receive a well-deserved 2% raise, either now or in July (depending on seniority). But hundreds of equally hard-working employees will not -- because the school district continues to make insufficient offers to the PFT at the bargaining table.
This move suggests that the District is ready to pay up, if only the PFT would agree to their proposed terms for a new contract. But the unfortunate truth is that the District is still shortchanging both its PFT and non-PFT employees.
Here’s the full picture:
Last week, the PFT members at Central High School - regardless of caucus affiliation - embarked upon a letter-writing campaign that we hope will set in motion a movement that will be replicated throughout the district. The action itself is a symbol of solidarity designed to urge the School District of Philadelphia to resume contract negotiation talks with the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.
The idea was the brainchild of Erica Catlin, a caucus member and English teacher at Central:
Thanks to all who turned out for the Labor Day rally and parade this morning on Columbus Boulevard. Rank and file members were out in force, alongside union members from all over the city and region.
During the rally, PFT president Jerry Jordan called on our union brothers and sisters for solidarity and support as Philadelphia educators enter their fourth year without a contract. The Caucus of Working Educators was happy to echo this statement with a banner dropped along the parade route.
As we enter a new school year, do not let our contract battle stay invisible. Share this message with your families, neighbors, networks, and communities. Let them know that we are showing up to school every day despite years of wage freezes, disastrous outsourcing, and continued disrespect on the part of our employer, the School District Philadelphia.
No PFT Contract
Still Here for Philly kids!
On August 15, the PA Supreme Court made their long-awaited ruling that the School District of Philadelphia could not use Act 46 to cancel the teacher’s contract. This decision was a huge win for the PFT. The membership should thank Jerry Jordan, the other members of the union leadership and the PFT lawyers for their efforts that resulted in this important victory.
Now that we can all breathe a quick sigh of relief, our membership needs to build on the momentum of the court’s decision--and that includes understanding every angle of the decision. As we move into the next phase of our protracted battle with the district, here are 8 questions rank and file educators are asking about the decision:Read more
As of this Tuesday 7/26, it will be 1,060 days without a contract for the Philadelphia's public school educators. With the Democratic National Convention in town, the eyes of the nation are on Philadelphia. In addition to getting out on the street to make our voices heard and show solidarity with our colleagues in justice, we also have an opportunity to make waves on social media, especially Twitter.
On Tuesday, the convention will focus on issues for communities, children, and families. Let's take this opportunity to highlight the challenges we face daily in #PHLed, especially those that will not be mentioned from the podium at the DNC. To highlight these issues, we'll use the hashtag #InvisibleatDNC.
In these posts, we can highlight our lack of a contract, the crushing impacts of underfunding on our schools, classrooms and students, the undemocratic SRC leadership of the School District of Philadelphia, the impacts of poverty and systemic oppression on our communities, and any other issues that we see, but don't expect to see discussed from the podium.
- You can post on either Twitter or Facebook using the hashtag #InvisibleatDNC
- In addition to writing your own posts, favorite and retweet posts from others on the hashtag.
- Spread the word to other activists, in education and beyond, and invite them to join us.
- In addition to #InvisibleatDNC, use the hashtags #PHLed and #DemsInPhilly.
As a note, it is important to acknowledge that the DNC has chosen to highlight some critical issues we face on Tuesday night, particularly related to racial justice. The Mothers of the Movement will speak, and it is important that we "step back" and support those causes when they come on stage. So as you watch the coverage, pick moments to be positive as well as moments to be critical!
Please use #InvisibleAtDNC to speak to your own concerns, and invite your friends, neighbors, and colleagues to do the same! The work is easy, and will go a long way to making education issues visible during this national event.
Charlie McGeehan, Caucus Member & PFT Building Rep
P.S. Want more DNC action? Come check out caucus members Ismael Jimenez and Tamara Anderson speak truth to power alongside a fabulous set of panelists from around the country tonight at 7PM and tomorrow at 5:30PM.
At the SRC meeting on Thursday, May 26th, Caucus Members and Franklin Learning Center teachers Catie Khella and Jessica Way spoke their minds about the current state of the teachers contract and morale in their profession. See their testimony below.
Our union is strongest when the rank and file step up and speak truth to power! As we move past the 1,000-day mark of our canceled contract, keep sharing your story with your friends, family, communities, and higher-ups as well. The entire city needs to know the reality of our schools.
Next Friday, May 27, 2016 marks 1,000 days since the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers contract with the School District of Philadelphia ran out. Since then, instead of attempting to negotiate a fair contract, the School Reform Commission and Superintendent Hite have chosen to act to make it harder for Philly students to learn and teachers to teach—and, frankly, to live comfortably and productively.
They have attempted to cancel our status quo contract and impose terms on teachers. They have cheapened the teaching profession by botching contracts for filling substitute positions. They have spent millions to battle lawsuits brought to demand proper services and compensation. They are unwilling and unable to manage the health, counseling, and environmental needs of their schools' climate. They have funneled three-quarters of a billion dollars to unproven and unaccountable charter school operators.
The district and city residents need constant reminders that not only is a fair contract for Philadelphia teachers a huge step toward addressing these issues, but we are continuing to do our jobs even while Hite and the SRC are not. With inspiration from our colleagues in the Harrisburg Education Association, this #1000Days graphic was made by PFT members for PFT members for social media, and for a limited number of buttons to be distributed to PFT members and our supporters.
You are welcome to wear and share these as you see fit, even now, but we hope everyone will publicly show off our message in full force beginning Friday, May 27, and every day until the PFT wins a new, fair contract. Remind District leaders that we stand in solidarity, and remind our city that we stand for and with its children.
(Educators and families from Cooke, Huey, and Wister fight back against their schools being turned into charters.)
We applaud last night’s Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision limiting the powers of the School Reform Commission. The ruling offers a breath of relief to members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, who no longer have to worry about our contract being unilaterally cancelled by the School District of Philadelphia. It also creates the opportunity to finally address years of unlawful hiring practices, ignoring seniority, and the back pay we deserve after years of missed step increases.
However, the ruling also highlights the need for strong organizing —and a strong union— to fight back against the continued assault on public education.
While the ruling potentially puts us back on the path to negotiate a contract, it also opens the door for uncapped charter school expansion. With the District on the hook to pay for it, this will channel further funds away from district schools to charter operators, and threatens the elimination of school staff, services, and buildings— when we are already operating with deeply inadequate staffing and resources.
How soon will this happen? The same night of the court ruling, the SRC approved three new charter school proposals for 2,500 students, putting approximately 100 PFT positions at risk. At this rate, how many of our union brothers and sisters will be left to enjoy the next contract we win?
Our union must act to reverse the SRC’s financing of the charter school industry before it swallows up our public school system. This can only happen by working alongside parents and communities to proactively invest in and fight for our public schools, instead of watching as more and more schools are closed or turned over to charter operators.
We must be a clear voice heard in Harrisburg advocating for the schools Philly students, parents, and educators deserve. And we must make sure the politicians who represent our members and schools —many of whom advocated in favor of charter schools at the February 16 SRC meeting— know that there are political consequences to their giveaway of our schools.
We need a union that can fight in court, in our neighborhoods, and in the streets with equal force. Alongside news of the failure of Friedrichs, the labor movement has a new opportunity to focus on deep organizing. As the rank and file caucus of the PFT, we remain committed to this fight on all fronts.
To all members of the PFT:
In September, the Caucus of Working Educators announced that we are running a slate of candidates for PFT leadership in the 2016 internal PFT election. Many PFT members don’t know anything about our electoral process, because they’ve never had a chance to vote in one--the current Collective Bargaining Team (CB Team) leadership has held office unopposed since 2004.
We want a democratic, transparent election process for all candidates and members. Unfortunately, as a union we are not there yet. Here are a few contested parts of the election process that every PFT member needs to know about:
The PFT Executive Board sets the timeline and procedures for the election, and have thus far refused to make the arrangements, despite repeated requests from the Caucus over the last two months. All we know is that, according to the PFT Constitution, the election must happen between January and April of 2016. Although there has been some hint by PFT employees that the timeline will mirror the ceremonial election process of 2012 (where the CB leadership cast a ballot for themselves on an “election day” in February), no official word has been given. Why is the current leadership refusing to start up the process? All PFT members deserve to know the timeline and procedures for the upcoming election--and they deserve to know it now.
PFT Employees are not allowed to campaign for the CB Team while they are “on the clock” for their paid PFT jobs, nor may they fund any part of the CB campaign out of the PFT’s pocket. However, any group within the union is free to meet in schools to discuss matters relevant to them. The PFT cannot prohibit caucus members from congregating, just as the caucus would never attempt to prohibit CB team members from meeting once their official PFT work day was over.
This is also true for distributing materials to mailboxes. According to our contract with the School District of Philadelphia, any PFT member who wishes to distribute materials about union business has the right to do so. The Caucus of Working Educators is a part of the PFT.
PFT members and the Philadelphia Public school community have been suffering through many years of the undemocratic actions of the School Reform Commission. This PFT internal election can and must set an example for how democratic elections can empower and energize a community. That can only happen when members are allowed to freely engage with each other and exchange ideas openly. Any attempt to silence, alienate, or misinform our membership weakens our collective power.
All of us in the PFT must build on the incredible city and state electoral victories we all shared in on Tuesday by giving all of our members a voice in discussing, debating, and deciding the future of our union.
The Election Committee of the Caucus of Working Educators