CFT Convention delegates elect leadership slate

Speakers laud union’s accomplishments and inspire future campaigns

Midway through this year’s state convention, CFT President Josh Pechthalt and Secretary Treasurer Jeff Freitas ran unopposed as part of a slate called QES-Quality Education Slate and the entire slate was elected by acclamation.

The slate for the 24 vice presidents was incumbents except for the addition of Kathy Jasper, an adult educator from San Jose and leader of the San Jose Federation of Teachers.

There will be new leaders in two of CFT’s division councils. Jim Mahler from the AFT Guild, San Diego and Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community Colleges, was elected president of the Community College Council, succeeding Carl Friedlander from Los Angeles College Faculty Guild, who retired. And Paula Phillips from the Berkeley Council of Classified Employees was elected president of the statewide Council of Classified Employees, unseating Velma Butler from the AFT Staff Guild in Los Angeles.

Speakers at the 71st annual CFT Convention, held in Sacramento March 15-17, praised delegates for their victories in passing Prop. 30, the progressive tax increase, and defeating Prop. 32, a well-funded anti-union ballot measure.

Changing gears, they outlined what members needed to do next to save the state’s schools and colleges and rescue America’s shrinking middle class. The message was clear and repeated — the union is powerful, there’s much more work to do and
we need community support.

You wanted to change the direction of the nation and you won. If you’re a union guy or gal and you challenge the status quo, you’re a troublemaker and if you’re a banker you’re an innovator. We love you troublemakers. —Bill Camp, Sacramento Central Labor Council

In welcoming the delegates, Bill Camp from the Sacramento Central Labor Council said, “You wanted to change the direction of the nation and you won. If you’re a union guy or gal and you challenge the status quo, you’re a troublemaker and if you’re a banker you’re an innovator. We love you troublemakers.”

Jesse Sharkey, vice president of the Chicago Teachers Union a guest speaker who stirred passions, said that the California union had always been his model. His local’s successful strike last fall replicated CFT’s broad mobilization of parent and community allies.

Guest speaker David Berliner, an education professor emeritus from Arizona State, impressed. Berliner is a data specialist; he steamed through graphs that showed American schools outperformed the developed world averages, where no more than half the kids fell below the poverty line. The problem, he said, is the growing income gap.

Berliner, co-author of the book The Manufactured Crisis, is writing a new book detailing 50 myths used to attack public schools, although he is already up to 54.

Finally, AFT president Randi Weingarten reeled off data linking the growth of corporate profits with the decline of union membership. She saluted CFT’s victories on Propositions 30 and 32 and asked, “How many times do we have to prove that California had the best educational system in the country before Prop. 13?”

Award presentations studded the program, including the Legislator of the Year award to Berkeley Assemblymember Nancy Skinner; CFT’s highest honor, the Ben Rust Award, to Linda Tubach from Los Angeles;  and the EC/K-12 Council’s Raoul Teilhet Award to Linda Plack from San Francisco. Locals were recognized for membership growth, political success and outstanding communications.

— By Malcolm Terence, CFT Reporter