WE've Been Making Bold Moves. Join Us!

by Kathleen Melville and Tasaday Messina

WE have been making some bold moves lately - shutting down a City Council hearing to call attention to dangerous conditions in our schools, protesting the “phase-out” of Strawberry Mansion, and demanding that the rich pay their fair share to fund Philly schools. We do this because our students deserve much better than crumbling buildings and understaffed schools. And we do this because it works.

This past week, in response to growing pressure from Philly education advocates, Governor Wolf announced an additional $15 million to repair Philly schools. He also called for a major change in state education funding that would increase equity and bring more money to urban districts like Philadelphia.

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#BecauseOfMyUnion: Why are you "Union Proud"?

Yesterday when the Supreme Court of the United States reached its decision in the Janus v. AFCSME case, I know many of us immediately thought of what this would mean for the PFT. I reflected on all the times the union has made it possible for me to do my job in an ethical manner, as well as all the times the union has helped me take care of my family.  

As we do with many of the privileges we live with daily, we can tend to take our union for granted. As we reach out to each other and our colleagues to help each other and our union get through this dangerous time, let’s think about all the large and small ways our union makes our lives better. 

Let’s communicate to our colleagues and to each other--as well as all the anti-unionists--why we love and will stand by our union. Think of all the benefits that we and our students reap from our union membership.

Please use the hashtag #BecauseOfMyUnion to herald all the large and small ways that belonging to a union makes our work possible and our lives better.

I posted a couple of my tweets below as examples. Be creative-- #PhlEd staff are great at that!  

A few more examples:

I know that #BecauseOfMyUnion I don’t have to worry about being able to afford my child’s medication. #PhlED @PFTLocal3

It’s #BecauseOfMyUnion that I can take time to be with my ill parents without fear of losing my job.  #PhlED @PFTLocal3

Those of us who believe strongly that Unions help affirm the dignity and humanity of workers realize we need to stick with our union and help educate our colleagues about the value of Union membership. Of course, personal conversations and deep organizing will be our main work in stopping this attack on our union, but use of this hashtag can help us start those important conversations.

 

Written by Kristin Luebbert (@teacherinphilly), veteran Philadelphia educator and building rep (and also the primary voice behind the @CaucusofWE twitter account!).

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Janus Won't Stop Us

As Philly educators, we know how it feels to be underdogs. Every day, we are up against formidable odds - crumbling buildings, oversized classes, and too little support in meeting students’ considerable needs.

With the Janus ruling looming, we find ourselves as the underdogs, once again, in the fight for the fully funded schools that our students deserve. The Janus case is the result of a coordinated effort by very rich and powerful conservative donors to dismantle public sector unions. By attacking our unions, the wealthy on the right are hoping to defeat one of their biggest enemies - workers fighting together for good-paying jobs and robust public services. They know that when unions are strong, wages are higher for everyone. When unions are strong, the racial income gap narrows and workers of color receive better pay and working conditions. They know the power of a high-participation union, and that’s why they want to keep workers from participating.

As underdogs, we will keep up the fight - for our students, for our union, for fully funded schools in our city. When we get mailings from conservative donors, trying to convince us to leave our union, they will go straight into the trash. And when we get calls asking if we want to save money by quitting our union, we will hang up.

We will stick together, organizing our fellow educators to build a fighting, high-participation union that wins, even when the odds are against us. We all we got. We all we need.

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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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Support The Group of 50 - Send Them to AFT National!

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Just a few of the fabulous PFT members who are a part of the Group of 50 -- support them in their journey by voting for them in February!

The AFT National Convention is happening in Pittsburgh this July -- and WE want to send you there!

In case you didn’t know, our national union, the American Federation of Teachers, has its National Convention every two years. The event is the single biggest learning opportunity in our union, jam-packed with inspiring speakers, informative panels, meetings for different bargaining units and interest groups, and floor votes on a variety of relevant topics, such as resolutions supporting political movements or changes in AFT policy.

How do you get a spot? Any PFT member can run to be a delegate to the convention! Unfortunately, very few members even know the event even exists, much less how to get there. This year, the Caucus wants to see that change.

To those ends, we are making an open call for female members of the PFT to join our "Group of 50" and run as delegates to both the AFT National Convention in 2018 and AFT-PA in 2019.

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The SRC Voted To Dissolve. What Happens Next?

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They voted to dissolve! So when does the SRC finally go away?

Their last day is June 30. This follows the requirement that the vote must happen at least 180 days before the actual dissolution. The June 30 aligns with the fiscal year -- new school board, new budget.

What will replace the commission?

A nine-member school board appointed by the Mayor, which is what oversaw the district before the SRC came into existence in 2001. There is also a planned non-voting position for a current Philadelphia student.

How will these members be selected? 

According to the Mayor’s timeline, A nominating committee will be appointed by Mid-December. This committee will recommend 3 possible choices for each of the 9 seats on the board. The mayor will select one of these recommendations for each seat. There is also pending legislation -- which will require approval by public referendum --  that would require city council approval for all nominees.

Can anyone become a member of the school board?

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SRC’s Demise Is a Victory for Organizing

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For the first time since 2001, Philadelphia will soon control its own schools. With Mayor Kenney’s endorsement, the SRC is almost certain to vote for its own abolition, ending the failed experiment that put Harrisburg in control of the Philadelphia School District.

The return of local control is a victory for Philadelphia’s students, parents, teachers, and community members. It is a victory for those who have spent years attending SRC meetings to protest and testify for more accountable school governance. It is a victory for Mayor Kenney, for recognizing the danger that state control poses to the future of our school district, and it is a victory for the members of the SRC for recognizing that the students of Philadelphia are best served by their willingness to step aside.

It is a victory that would not have happened without strong, grassroots organizing.

After more than 15 years, why have the Mayor and SRC chosen this moment to dissolve? The Mayor has spent the last year refusing to commit to a particular timeline. As recently as a few weeks ago, he said that he expected a vote on SRC abolition to happen “sometime in 2018.” Meanwhile, members of City Council and the Mayor’s staff had told us in recent months that there was little movement towards SRC dissolution, and little likelihood this would change without outside pressure. So what changed?

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A Vision for Vibrant Philly Public Schools...and How to Get There: The WE Convention on Nov. 4th

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Every parent, student, educator, and community member has a vision for the vibrant public schools that Philly deserves. Whether your vision is of community control, culturally-relevant pedagogy, sanctuary schools, or simply sufficient staffing and resources, we believe that the only way to make our vision for Philly schools a reality is by coming together to share ideas, build our skills, and working together. 

On Saturday, November 4th we hope you will join us for our 4th annual Working Educators Convention to share YOUR vision for Philadelphia's public schools. We invite EVERY educator, education advocate, and community member to join us for a day of building our skills, learning together, and discussing key public education issues with workshops organized by leaders in education, union, and justice work from all over the country. Plus, breakfast and lunch to break bread together, and childcare will be available to make sure everyone can join us.

Can you make it? Can you invite a fellow educator, parent, or public school advocate to join us? 

4th Annual WE Convention
Saturday, November 4th // 9AM - 4PM
Old First Reformed UCC
151 N. 4th Street, Philadelphia PA 19106

We are thrilled to have a keynote address by Erica Smiley, a progressive labor leader and Jobs with Justice's National Organizing Director- and a closing address from Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) President Barbara Madeloni!

P.S. Check out Barbara Madeloni on Friday night for a free and public speech on "Pedagogy and Power: The Essential Role of Teacher's Unions in Movement Building", as part of the Critical Theories of Education Today Conference at the Friends Center!

Here's the full agenda:

Building Power through Organizing: 4th Annual Convention

Sat, Nov. 4, 2017 (9:00am-4pm), Old First Reformed UCC, 151 N. 4th Street

 

9:00-10:00am, Registration & Breakfast

 

10:00-10:45am, Keynote

“Building the 21st Century Labor Movement: Confronting White Supremacy to Build Shared Bargaining Power” by Erica Smiley (Jobs with Justice)

 

11:00am-12:00pm, Breakout Session 1

  • Worksite Mapping (Kathleen Brower):  Participants will learn how to build an effective organization and worksite structure to mobilize a super-majority of their coworkers.

  • Critically Examining Race Inside the Classroom and Beyond (Ismael Jimenez, Keziah Ridgeway, Angela Crawford):  The session will explore the multiple manifestations of racism within our society and how to purposefully address racism inside and out of the classroom.

  • Decentering Whiteness In Our Classrooms and Schools  (Charlie McGeehan & Monica Clark):  This session is intended to help educators who identify as white unpack the role their whiteness plays in their classrooms, schools, and daily interactions. Participants will leave with strategies to bring this work to peers at their schools

12:00-1:00pm, Lunch

 

1:15-2:15pm, Breakout Session 2

  • Tools to Build Power: Using Surveys to Move People to Action (Christi Clark & Zein Nakhoda): Participants will leave with an understanding of how to use WE’s new survey, skills to respond to tough questions, and a plan to engage more educators in taking action.  

  • Expanding Sanctuary Inside Schools and Out (Max Rosen-Long & Edwin Mayorga):  How can we create “sanctuary schools” that support students and families across issues of culturally relevant teaching, policing and ICE in schools, and parent-school relationships? Help develop a framework to make sure our schools are empowering for all students, educators, and families.

  • Organizing to Save Our Schools: (Tonyah Bah, Kendra Brooks, Andres Celin, & Amy Roat) Hear how students, parents and teachers are organizing together to fight against threatened school takeovers (through SGS, Turnaround, Renaissance Charter, Closure, etc.)

 

2:30-3:15pm, Closing

“Union leadership and the dismantling of white supremacy” by Barbara Madeloni (President of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, EDU)

If you have any questions, please contact us at contact@workingeducators.org or post in the facebook event. We can't wait to see you!

(Pictured above: photos from last year's 3rd Annual WE Convention) 

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