Many PFT Members have been asking how the PFT will look different under Working Educators. Contract decisions, term limits, communication with members, inclusive leadership, and more-- here's how WE will make sure that the best days of our union ahead of us, not behind us.
Part 3 of a 9-part series of position papers on the substantive steps Working Educators would like to take strengthen the PFT and fight for the schools we deserve. Parts 1 and 2 covered negotiating the next PFT contract and building political alliances. If you have any questions or comments, please email email@example.com. And don't forget to vote on Feb 4th!
Many PFT members feel disconnected from each other, and especially from PFT leadership. The PFT is the largest union in the city of Philadelphia, yet the true power of our 11,000 members has been locked away for too long. Why is this? Our Caucus has heard too many stories of PFT members misinformed or uninformed about campaigns, policies, and their own leaders; of poorly-attended events; of statements to membership with unclear calls to action (or none at all); and, of long periods of radio silence on topics important to teachers and the communities we serve.
The Caucus believes that member education and empowerment must be restored as core principles of our union’s leadership. The Executive Board works at the pleasure of, and for the benefit of, the rank and file. If members don’t feel they are adequately informed, then it is not membership’s fault that they are disengaged from the union’s actions—it is leadership’s responsibility to provide a better, more engaging system.
What WE propose:
• Make sure that members are educated about important PFT issues, and invited to help plan actions and activities based on them.
• Create venues for PFT members to quickly and easily understand, decide on, and participate in union affairs. This includes expanded use of digital and social media communications, as well as new and more inclusive PFT organizational structures.
• Revamp the PFT website to make it more useful and user-friendly, including more frequent content updates, elimination of errors and bugs, and improved information architecture.
• Update PFT policies to make our operations more modern, transparent, and responsive, Such changes may address union meetings and their content, elected leaders’ teaching responsibilities, consistent election procedures, and training opportunities for future leaders.
Part 2 of a 9-part series of position papers on the substantive steps Working Educators would like to take strengthen the PFT and fight for the schools we deserve. Part 1 covered negotiating the next PFT contract, or you can click here to read all 9 position papers. If you have any questions or comments, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. And don't forget to vote on Feb 4th!
Two of our Commonwealth’s most pressing problems—its financial woes and its concerns with school performance—are both on some level purposefully manufactured, with compassionate responses and solutions to them being willfully ignored. Having allies in local and statewide elected office is a major part of our union’s strategy for dealing with these issues. The Caucus of Working Educators understands that expert political maneuvering, including some compromise, is often necessary to even get a fraction of demands met in this arena.
However, eliminating or starving public schools is punitive, miseducative, inconvenient, damaging, and unsympathetic to teachers, children, and communities. When you attack educators, there should be consequences. The PFT must be willing to hold politicians accountable if they support laws and budgets that push “solutions” such as budget cuts, takeover, privatization, and closure—especially when triggered by schools’ failure to live up to misguided test-and-punish measures.
This holds even for lawmakers to whom our union has promised donations and votes in the past, especially if they take positions in direct opposition to prior statements or acts made to earn such support from us. This requires not only a change in our current political strategy, but also an effort to build the “people power” necessary to make politicians understand the danger of ignoring educators’ voices.
What WE propose:
• Consistent public pressure for budgets that provide appropriate resources for school
districts, as well as for laws and policies that avoid school closings and privatization.
• Withhold financial support and endorsements from, and create public campaigns against, politicians who propose, vote for, or otherwise assist in enacting legislation that attacks public education.
• Build alliances with other unions and organizations across the state, and use PFT resources and member advocacy to help change the balance of power in the state legislature.
• Work to recruit and promote educators and educational allies for political office and appointments to other positions of authority. This should include a new focus on building power within Philadelphia’s highly influential ward system.
Part 1 of a 9-part series of position papers on the substantive steps Working Educators would like to take strengthen the PFT and fight for the schools we deserve. Click here to read all 9 position papers. If you have any questions or comments, please email email@example.com. And don't forget to vote on Feb 4th!
At the heart of the Caucus of Working Educators is our drive to represent you, our fellow PFT members, at the negotiating table for an equitable and strong contract from the School District of Philadelphia. We share your frustration with working under a status quo contract for far too long. We recognize the disrespect shown to our union by the district’s attempts to impose contract terms. We join our voices to yours in fear that our deteriorating work conditions might somehow become permanent.
Many members have been concerned about both the lack of momentum in the contract talks, and the lack of transparency regarding the collective bargaining process. We believe that there are substantive steps that our entire union can take to address these concerns raised by teachers across the district.
Our Caucus recognizes that legal decisions and electoral politics play a major role in the collective bargaining process, affecting how and when the PFT negotiates and what compromises we might be forced to consider. However, the Caucus of Working Educators believes that a union’s success at negotiating does not originate with the courts, the legislature, or even the negotiators at the bargaining table. The key to our strength at the negotiating table lies with the power of our collective membership. Building that power requires a newfound commitment to member education and organizing, so that our 11,000 members are ready to mobilize behind their contract demands.
Too many of our colleagues are tired of waiting for a substantive update of where things stand, and too few have any idea what proposals are on the table. We believe that the membership should be engaged throughout the process—making sure that the negotiators are truly representing the priorities of the rank and file, and making sure that members are educated on the various issues being considered.
We will gain the best possible contract when we work to educate and empower our members, make renewed outreach to win public support, and provide meaningful opportunities for union membership to guide its leadership and to compel our district to an appropriate, fair, and moral result.
What WE propose:
• Cultivate timely interactions with and feedback from membership to focus the negotiating team on union demands for our next contract.
• Retain legal counsel, intimately involved with current contract negotiations, to continue to work alongside the Executive Board on behalf of PFT members.
• Complement our use of the legal system to defend against illegal overreaches with a proactive and multifaceted strategy—including internal organizing, stronger community partnerships, and carefully orchestrated actions—to keep the public on the side of educators in the political struggle that surrounds contract negotiations.
Over the last three months, the Caucus of Working Educators has met thousands of PFT members around the city. That process all started with a listening campaign, wit a couple of central questions: what would make your life better as an educator? and what could the PFT be doing to help with that?
The first result of that work was our Campaign Platform. Now, we're pleased to present nine position papers on the following topics:
- Negotiating the Next PFT Contract
- The PFT and our Political Alliances
- Rank and File Communications and Empowerment
- Disbanding the SRC and Replacing Superintendent Hite
- Transforming What it Means to be a Union Member
- Community Involvement and Team Building
- Standardized Testing and School Performance Metrics
- School Climate and Safety
- Fighting for Services for Students with Special Needs
We'll be featuring this content on our website over the next couple of weeks, but you can read the complete packet of position papers here.
Thanks to all who attended our Second Annual Convention last Saturday! We introduced our slate of candidates for Executive Office, as well as unveiled our platform, which reflects the opinions and priorities of the many educators who turned out for our city-wide listening sessions.
We'll be introducing you to the candidates over the next week. As for our platform, below is a partial summary of how our work would transform the PFT. If you'd like to check out our complete platform, see this document. Our platform is not a laundry list of campaign promises -- it is a template for how to improve how our union operates. We'll be highlighting additional sections of it in the coming weeks.
Want to share this with fellow educators? Click here to download a printable PDF version.
7 Ways Your Vote for Working Educators Will Mean Positive Change for the PFT
1. You will have a central office and staffers that listen and respond. We will send and receive direct phone calls and email.
2. Your Building Representative will become an expert. Veteran reps will help train newer reps, and we will use regional meetings to hear about member needs.
3. You will have a chance to read and understand your contract before voting. You deserve to know exactly what you are voting on.
4. When an event is coming up, you will know about it. Working Educators will share information earlier and through more channels -- both in person and online.
5. Your union will fight for you on all fronts. Court victories are great, but not enough. Working Educators will keep up the PFT’s legal fight, and also expand our alliances with parents, community groups, politicians, and other unions — so that the entire city on is on our side.
6. You will have a union that supports you as a professional educator, not just an employee. You know what works best for your students. We will protect your profession and fight for the resources you need.
7. You will belong to a PFT that builds power by involving ALL members. We’re the largest union in Philly. Our numbers are our strength!