Everyone in the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers is a fan of PFT gear. It's a badge of pride to wear red and display our shield on a shirt, a hat, a pin. And yet... don't you sometimes wish there was some other way to show off your union pride? The work we do and the battles we wage comprise serious business, but why not inject a hint of fun and surprise—a bit of "cool factor"—into our efforts?
Adam Blyweiss, teacher of CTE Commercial & Advertising Art at Martin Luther King High School and the Communications Secretary for WE, had the idea to spice up union members' wardrobes with gear that reconfigured our name in the styles of Philadelphia sports teams. Our city's fandom, passion, and knowledge about sports are unparalleled in the nation. What better way to make colleagues look twice—and start conversations with our fellow citizens—than tying the games we love to the work we love?
This new t-shirt design, modeled after Philadelphia's pro baseball team, is the first in what we hope will be a series of limited-edition shirts to show public visual support for our union and raise funds for the Caucus of Working Educators. Please visit our Chuffed campaign page for more information and to order your shirts. We hope to hit our pre-order targets during May 2017 so shirts can be produced and mailed out in June 2017.
The Caucus of Working Educators/Teacher Action Group Summer Reading Series is back for the fourth summer of learning together!
Every summer educators, organizers, parents, and community members meet across Philadelphia to read and discuss books. These book groups allow us to build relationships with each other, create new opportunities for leadership, and connect political education back to our organizing.
The poll closes on Monday, May 22 at midnight. After we vote, we will connect selected books to facilitators and begin registration! If you are interested in facilitating a book group this summer, contact Kathleen Riley.
Are you excited yet? If so, please join us the Summer Reading Series Kick-Off to preview the books, meet the facilitators, connect with other readers, and celebrate the end of the school year:
5118 Sansom Street (street parking and 2 blocks from the El)
$1 shrimp, $5 mussels, $5 fish sandwiches, and drink specials
Did you know that, when a union brings a contract offer to its membership, it's quite common to have a reading period before a vote?
Unions around the country give their members days or even weeks to review the contract before being asked to respond to the offer. This includes teachers unions -- the Chicago Teachers Union typically gives its members three days, and the United Federation of Teachers in New York City has given its members up to a month during previous offers!
If you are a teacher in Philadelphia, this might be news to you, because the last time we had a chance to vote on a contract in 2009, members only had a few hours to review an abbreviated version of the contract the same day as the vote. Most members didn't even know that the voice vote held on the floor (of the Liacouras Center at Temple University) was merely symbolic and that the official paper ballot vote happened afterward. This process was speedy even compared to earlier PFT contract offers, where teachers were given a number of days to review print copies of the contract before gathering for a vote.
The Caucus of Working Educators enthusiastically supports the PFT leadership in their ongoing contract negotiations, and are very much looking forward to a resolution to what has been a long and bitter struggle. To those ends, we want a contract ratification process that allows the general membership to feel confident in their vote.
This is not an abstract concern -- last year, the administrators in CASA pushed back against their own union leadership when the negotiating team presented a contract offer with limited information and a speedy schedule for a vote. The members voted "no" in part because they felt needlessly pressured by the CASA leadership to make a quick decision.
Rushing this process risks its success. To those ends, we have requested that the PFT leadership make a public commitment to a minimum one-week reading period by this Thursday, May 18th. The request was signed by educators from dozens of schools around the district and delivered to Jerry Jordan at the executive board meeting on May 11th.
Let's empower the rank and file to bring this long contract battle to a successful conclusion!
Philly educators took to the streets on May Day to take a stand against austerity budgeting, racist attacks, deportations, wage theft, rampant gentrification, cutbacks on public services such as fair housing and education and, of course, the lack of a PFT contract. Our fight for a fair contract is a fight for the future of every single Philadelphia child and for the future of public education in Philadelphia.
Solidarity: Our Collective Work Parents, community members and allies understand this larger fight. POWER, Parents United for Public Education, Juntos, New Sanctuary Movement, Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, Black Lives Matter Philadelphia, Philadelphia Black History Collaborative, Asian Americans United, Vietlead, Teacher Action Group, Youth United for Change, Philadelphia Student Union, 215 Pepople’s Alliance, Reclaim Philadelphia, Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools, Neighborhood Networks, Americans for Democratic Action and the Fight for 15 are just a few of the nearly 500 individuals, organizations and institutions that stood with us on May Day and called for education justice in this city. The hundreds of educators from over 25 schools who flooded the streets on May Day understand this larger fight as well -- along with the thousands of additional educators who supported the action from the classroom.
Our Union, Our City and the Future
The “May Day of Advocacy for Philly Schools” gave us a glimpse into the true power we have as rank-and-file members of our union and of our community and parent organizations. Once we tap into that potential, we will redefine both the culture of our union and the political landscape of this city. Imagine a PFT in which every single member is an active participant -- a changemaker. Imagine a Philadelphia in which we all come together -- unions, community organizations, immigrant rights groups, racial justice organizations, youth groups, parents, allies and advocates -- to take back our city from the corporate elite and public officials who are destroying our public institutions and weakening our democracy.
May Day showed us that we have the capacity to transform our union and our city. We can make that vision a reality by building relationships with each other, taking collective action, and showing up for our students, our profession, and our future.
Help build the movement:
Become a member of the Caucus of Working Educators. Click here to join.
- Come to the next Monthly Organizing Meeting on Tuesday, May 9, 4:30-6:30 at Kensington CAPA (1901 N. Front St. 19122). Childcare is provided. RSVP here.
Join the fight for
the schools our children deserve!
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
Mayor Kenney is scheduled to release his budget on Thursday morning. While our schools continue to be drastically underfunded and understaffed, the educators of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers have gone without a contract since 2013-- including 5 years without raises for cost-of-living, years of experience, or advanced degrees. Students' opportunities to explore arts, music, and many extracurriculars continue to wither, and parents are forced to find new ways to give time and money to support their children's education.
Through all of this, Philly's educators and parents continue to scrape together what little we have to buy supplies and support our chronically underfunded schools so our city’s most vulnerable children do not continue to suffer because of the inaction of our political leaders.
Mayor Kenney promised significant increases in funding for public education during his campaign, but has yet to deliver.
As he prepares to issue his second annual budget proposal to City Council this Thursday morning, those of us who have sacrificed for far too long are asking the mayor to live up to his campaign promises. It’s time to put words into action.
Call Mayor Kenney today and demand that he fully fund our schools in Thursday's budget proposal. Use the following phone script and make your voice heard:
The Caucus of Working Educators recognizes the confirmation of Betsy DeVos as an unparalleled attack on public education. Her lack of qualifications -- or basic understanding of the position -- is widely recognized, and it is clear that she would never have been appointed were she not rich, white, and well-connected.
Simply stated, DeVos does not believe in public education. Her support for “choice” is a sham that masks the actual consequences of her agenda: the large-scale dismantling of America’s promise to provide education to all its children. As Arne Duncan showed with Race to the Top, the Secretary of Education has wide abilities to shape education policy even in areas that are supposedly left up to states. Even if she is not successful in implementing some of her more dangerous ideas, the Secretary will cause irreversible harm to students by failing to protect them from civil rights violations, neglect of legally mandated services, sexual assault, and more.
We are heartened by the show of solidarity against DeVos from across the political spectrum. The unprecedented opposition shows that the public understands that the stakes here are dire. But, while we are proud to protest this cabinet pick alongside 50 senators and hundreds of thousands of protesters, we cannot ignore a fundamental truth: DeVos is not an anomaly, but the result of a decade-long assault on public education.
We cannot forget that many of the same senators who voted against DeVos have also eagerly endorsed some of her policies. Education “reformers,” Democrats and Republicans alike, have championed anti-public school and anti-union actions disguised as “choice.” Celebrity pundits and policy hucksters have sold much of the country on the idea that public schools -- the backbone of our nation, which DeVos derides as “government schools” -- are irrevocably broken.
These ideas are not just misguided, they are actively harmful to schools, cities, and most importantly children. The policies they promote are a drain on public education, driving defunding, segregation, and disempowerment of communities.
Strong unions should be a firewall against a DeVos, but Republicans and Democrats both have worked tirelessly to make sure teachers and schools are divided, disempowered, and disillusioned.
The good news is that in Philadelphia, we’ve been dealing with reckless reformers financed by out-of-town billionaires for a long time. Here is how to take up the fight:
Step 1: Organize schools and communities
The Caucus of Working Educators has stood proudly with parents, students, and community members to resist privatization, defunding, and other flawed reforms that fail to support our students and communities. If Secretary DeVos thinks she can quietly rip the guts out of our federal protections for students in need, we will be there to raise the alarm and resist together.
Step 2: Band together in solidarity with other resisting groups
Through our Black Lives Matter week of action and support for groups such as Fight for 15, we rebuild and reaffirm the bond between labor, racial, and economic justice.
Step 3: Hold elected officials accountable, and run our people for office
The Caucus of Working Educators hit the streets and phones for candidates like Helen Gym and Governor Tom Wolf, both of whom have been strong advocates for public schools and will continue to protect our city and state in the face of potentially devastating national legislation.
Step 4: Position ourselves as leaders in the resistance against Trump
President Trump’s White Nationalist movement brought us DeVos, and will continue to hurt our kids and our schools. We must work to resist the agenda in all its forms, and thereby tap into the new wave of activism.
There are lots of upcoming organizing events and actions for migrant rights and public schools. Click on the links below and share. If we missed any, let us know so we can update the listings.
The WE Immigration Justice Committee meets on the 1st Tuesday of every month. Please join us! contact@WorkingEducators.org.
Tell Mayor Kenney and our city council to stand up to Trump and take action that both keeps our local police separate from ICE AND transforms our Philadelphia's policies to address the unjust criminal system that uses black and brown bodies to fill up jails through "broken window" policing policies, a racist cash bail system and the overuse of ankle monitors.
Love and retweet:
Thursday, February 2nd
6 PM - 8:30 PM at 4th & Market, Philadelphia
Join us as we march down Market Street to City Hall to protest the new administration’s racist, xenophobic, homophobic, and malicious policies, and to call on all federal, state, and local elected officials and government agencies to stand up for human rights.
Friday, February 3rd PRE-APPLICATION DEADLINE:
Led by Cynthia Dewi Oka
Saturdays 11 am - 1 pm, March 4 – April 1
With a public sharing on Friday, April 7
This workshop will explore questions of belonging, safety, and identity for (im)migrants in the aftermath of election 2016 and the consolidation of racist, misogynist, and xenophobic forces in the United States.
Apply Here: https://goo.gl/forms/i2uFVCE7a9DGKlUl1 Applications are due Feb. 3, 2017.
Friday, February 3rd
3pm 8 Penn Center
1628 John F Kennedy Blvd, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19103
Teachers and supporters of public education, LISTEN UP! We're gathering on Friday after school in front of Senator Toomey's office to make our voices heard! Betsy DeVos will be a disaster for public education! This could be our last chance to fight for our society's great equalizer! Please join me in fighting for our kids and make Toomey listen!! Toomey is on the fence, let's make him listen!! Make signs and meet in front of his office on Friday after school!
Saturday, February 4th
Unite Here Philadelphia 1415 N. Broad Street, Suite 219, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19122
Join us for a day of skill building, analysis and making a concrete plan for movement building organizing in 2017.
Sponsored by Reclaim Philadelphia and UNITE HERE Philly.
Saturday, February 4th
Young Muslims and Jews, allies of faith and secular allies will show what it looks like to fight hate and fear with love and hope. We are coming together to commit to unconditional solidarity between our communities.
We are thrilled to announce that on Saturday, January 28th, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins will take part in the closing panel discussion entitled "Next Steps: How does the work continue beyond Black Lives Matter week?"
The event is from 4:00-5:30pm at Temple University's Tuttleman Learning Center (1809 North 13th Street).
According to Jenkins: "If you ever want to change your environment or a system, you first have to be educated on how that system works. That’s why I am on the journey that I am now learning the inner workings of systems that have been set up to disadvantage minorities, especially black people. That’s why I am vigilant in my efforts to support and empower people of color."
Over 100 schools throughout the Philadelphia region have so far participated in Black Lives Matter week of action so far - and momentum behind the campaign is still growing. The week of action has been covered by dozens of media outlets across the country and received endorsements by over a hundred organizations and academics, including Councilwoman Helen Gym and Black Lives Matter - Pennsylvania.
Join us on Saturday!
As the Philly Education Black Lives Matter Week of Action (#BLMPhlEd) kicks off tomorrow, community organizations from across the city have signed on to participate in and support events throughout the week. Please check them out to see more about the inspiring grassroots organizing that these organizations do every day.
Are you part of an organization that would like to sign on as an endorser? Click here to add your organization to the list, or email us at BLMPHLed@gmail.com with any questions.
Caucus of Working Educators Racial Justice Committee
Teacher Action Group
Asian Americans United
Black Lives Matter - Pennsylvania
Badass Teachers Association
Baltimore Movement of Rank-and-File Educators (BMORE)
TheFellowship: Black Male Educators for Social Justice
If Not Now- Philadelphia
The Mazzoni Center
Media Mobilizing Project
The New Teacher Roundtable (New Orleans)
Organize 2020 (North Carolina)
Parents United for Public Education
Philadelphia Black History Collaborative
Philadelphia Children’s March
The Philadelphia Writing Project
Philly Student Union
Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ)
Teachers Lead Philly
United Caucuses of Rank and File Educators (UCORE)
University Community Collaborative
Youth United for Change
The Attic Youth Center
National LGBTQ Task Force
Office of Councilwoman Helen Gym