On November 19, the Caucus of Working Educators brought together PFT members and a wide range of allies to ask what educators, union members, and communities could do to champion schools and justice in the shadow of a newly-elected Presidential administration: “Organizing is the Answer.” WE’s 3rd annual convention was a day of building skills and highlighting winning campaigns with workshops organized by educators and union leaders from all over the country.
What exactly did we do and learn?
Jia Lee from the MORE Caucus of the UFT of New York—along with representatives of BMORE, NJCORE, and the Korean Teachers Union (KTU)—spoke of the ongoing challenges and philosophical penetration of advancing the fight for equity and justice in unions as well as through society-at-large. This event also hosted a number of breakout sessions on organizing within school buildings and local communities, as well as plans for successful issue campaigns and developing new union leaders. These were led by regional labor and community advocates from PASNAP, 215 People’s Alliance, Parents United, Labor Notes, and unions from higher education.
What are the next steps? How can you answer the call for organizing within the PFT, the city, the important causes of the day? Where can you get involved?
Start by joining us on Tuesday, December 13, at Kensington CAPA High School (1901 N. Front St, Philadelphia, 19122) in room 209 at 4:00 p.m. for WE’s Monthly Organizing Meeting. We’ll be discussion action plans for continuing to support the PFT’s contract negotiations with the District, protesting Pat Toomey’s campaign against sanctuary cities, developing special District-wide Black Lives Matter curriculum and events for January, abolishing the School Reform Commission, and more.
Yesterday, in the evening rain, we were arrested while advocating for a $15 hourly minimum wage. We stood alongside home care workers, uber drivers, fast food employees, and allies from across the city.
You might be asking: why would high school teachers put themselves on the line for this issue? The answer is simple: workers making minimum wage are also the parents of the students we teach.
At the current minimum wage of $7.25, if those parents work 40 hours a week, they take home a mere $267.80 after taxes -- not enough to cover the needs of a single person, much less a family. If they begin to work double or triple shifts -- as many fast food workers do -- they become absent from the lives of their own children. And with Philadelphia schools already short on resources, they then have neither the time nor money to support their children’s education the way middle-class families can afford to.
What is the legacy of our city? As the cradle of liberty, the birthplace of the nation, Philadelphia has a tradition of facing injustice with protest, dissent, and community.
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Last year, the Caucus of Working Educators wrote a Racial Justice Statement in response to the stark inequalities that still exist within our local and greater community that resulted in the murders of unarmed Black men and women at the hands of police officers, unchecked mass incarceration, and the ongoing shuttering and defunding of public schools in Black and Brown neighborhoods. As unionized educators, we have a moral obligation to affirm that Black lives matter.
With this in mind, the Caucus of Working Educators is planning a week of activities and teaching informed by the 13 guiding principles of the Black Lives Matter movement.Read more
It has always been a mission of the Caucus of Working Educators to stand for social justice both in public education as well as the larger community. In spite of the surprising news that came with yesterday’s election results, we remain steadfast in our mission.
WE will fight for the rights of unions to exist and for workers to fight for fair salaries and working conditions. WE will continue to oppose the school-to-prison pipeline. WE will stand with our immigrant students, and respect their rights to a decent education and livelihood. WE will demand that our students are free from violence in their schools and in the communities where they live. WE will fight to have our LGBTQ student population’s rights and dignity respected. WE will ensure that students of color receive equal treatment to their white peers.
WE will continue to fight for educational and socioeconomic justice within and beyond our school walls. WE will never tolerate anything less than what is best for our students, our city, and our profession.
No matter what comes, WE will be right here. WE will be organizing.
Three weeks away from election day, virtually every major poll has both the state of Pennsylvania and the country as a whole going Democrat for the presidential election.
In response to this, many potential voters and volunteers are asking: Does my effort really matter this year? This presidential election season has been exceptionally contentious. And many voters have mixed feelings about even heading to the polls after such a contentious primary season.
However, to focus exclusively on the presidential election ignores the vast majority of seats, and political realities, that will be decided on November 8th. Even though the national race grabs media attention -- it is the local races that need you to turn out and vote!
Here are just a few “down ticket” races in around the city and state that will be decided by handfuls of votes:Read more
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:
For 15 years, Philadelphia schools have been run by an unaccountable, undemocratic, unpopular, and unsuccessful administration – the School Reform Commission.
Last year, more than 75% of Philadelphia voters approved a referendum to abolish the SRC. Why? Perhaps because the SRC’s history is plagued by corruption, unconstitutional acts, disrespect for its own employees and students, and utter inefficacy. The ongoing, state-generated budget crisis should put to rest any argument that continuing to give away control of our school district will somehow increase our access to state funding.
The only legally realistic path for the abolition of the SRC is for it to vote to disband itself. The current members have been unwilling to do so. However, the pending resignations of Commissioners Neff and Houstoun, and the upcoming end of term for Commissioner Simms, creates an opportunity for Mayor Kenney and Governor Wolf to appoint a majority who will vote to disband the SRC.Read more
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:
This message is from Anissa Weinraub, a teacher at the Academy at Palumbo.
Attention All PFT members: Our PSERS pension is funding the violation of human rights, Native American land rights, and the potential poisoning of our national water supply. Here's how to tell PSERS to divest from the Dakota Access Pipeline:Read more
Join the Caucus of Working Educators and Philly educators for a trip to the hottest ticket since Hamilton! Travel with us on Saturday, October 22nd to Washington D.C. to see the brand-new Smithsonian museum dedicated to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture!
Some of the exhibits at the NMAAHC include items owned by Harriet Tubman, the glass-topped casket used for Emmett Till’s viewing (a courageous choice by his mother to highlight the brutality, illegality, and immorality of lynching), and a dress Rosa Parks was sewing the day she refuse to comply with racist Jim Crow laws. These are just a few of the more than 36,000 artifacts collected by the museum.
The Caucus has managed to get 50 tickets to this important new museum for Saturday October 22, 2016. Join us for a bus trip down to D.C. We will leave MLK High School at 8:00 AM and return at 6:00 PM. Tickets are $40.00 and include a boxed lunch. Children under 11 are free (limit is two children per paying adult).
Tickets are first come, first served. To reserve your ticket for this event call or email the following Caucus members:
Tamara Anderson: firstname.lastname@example.org
Ismael Jimenez: email@example.com
Tasha Russell: 267-844-1674