State of the Union highlights: CFT succeeds with a vision of social justice

By Joshua Pechthalt, CFT President

The super wealthy and their swollen circle of reactionary think tanks and echo chamber conservative media are committed to eradicating what remains of the labor movement and giving corporations unlimited power over every aspect of American life. Public education stands as an obstacle to such a corporate world committed to keeping wealth and education in the hands of a few.

The CFT stands as a barricade and a beacon of progressive, social justice unionism, fighting on many fronts.

• At a time when the labor movement is shrinking, our membership is growing as unrepresented educators in California see the CFT as a fierce defender of their rights and choose to be part of our family.
• The latest attack on public education has been the Vergara lawsuit. This attack on the rights of educators, accompanied by a false narrative about bad teachers and evil education unions, masks the systemic factors that influence learning: funding, economic inequality and cuts to social services. The CFT is working closely with the AFT educate the public about the importance teacher protections play in allowing us to advocate for students.
• The fight to keep City College of San Francisco open and accredited is part of a larger vision that sees public higher education as affordable for all. While the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges appears willing to use intimidation to create compliant community colleges, our efforts to build grassroots opposition to the commission’s behavior have dramatically changed the situation from a year ago. Our ongoing organizing and work in the media have isolated the commission and raised questions about its actions.
• We are currently part of a coalition with many of our Millionaires Tax and Proposition 30 partners in an effort to amend Proposition 13 in 2016 so that homeowners and small business owners are protected against escalating property taxes while large businesses are properly assessed based on the fair market value of their properties.
• The CFT has also been part of the Refund California coalition led by ACCE to expose unfair lending practices by banks; we are now exploring an oil severance tax to generate additional revenue.
• The Strategic Campaign Initiative provides organizing grants to locals, is building a new cadre of organizers, and serves as a template for the AFT.
• The CFT has launched a campaign called Healthy Kids, Healthy Minds to connect the health of our students to their success in school. We are working with Assemblyman Richard Pan, a former pediatrician, on AB 1955 that will couple federal and state dollars to put a nurse and mental health professional in every school and make sure that libraries are open when needed.

It is only our power that stands between public education and the forces that would privatize and destroy it. In state after state, anti-union forces have turned back the clock 100 years; we know that relying on politicians or the courts is futile. But we can fight back and we must. The future of our members, our students, our families depends on our winning.

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