About 100 members of the CFT Council of Classified Employees recently met in Anaheim for three days of networking and learning. Half the members who attended the annual conference were first-time attendees, signaling both a changing workforce and a new generation of union activists.

A high point for veterans and new participants was a panel moderated by the CCE Vice President for Southern California, Carl Williams, with three leaders whose locals are thriving.

Albert Lopez, president of the Menifee Council of Classified Employees, helped double his union’s ranks last year by tracking down fee payers, explaining the ways that joining AFT Local 6109 would benefit them, and signing them up as members. As a delivery driver, Lopez crisscrosses the Riverside County school district daily.

“A lot of people don’t understand what we do,” he said. “Getting out and talking to people really helps.”

Thomas Hamilton, president of the Long Beach Council of Classified Employees, has learned that discussing a political issue over lunch or coffee with a community college trustee or administrator can often resolve or prevent a problem.

“Before I was active in the union, I didn’t want to be considered ‘political,’” Hamilton said. “After serving as president, you realize that you must be political to effectively represent hundreds of members and their families.”

Hamilton said he and AFT Local 6108 leaders meet regularly to exchange ideas with Personnel Commission members and district trustees. “We believe the old saying that, if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu. We sit at every table possible.”

During recent negotiations, the local began a dialogue with the college’s new president and superintendent. Hamilton says those talks helped resolve several contract issues.

Anabel Ibañez is the new political director of United Educators of San Francisco, the first paraprofessional member of AFT Local 61 to hold the position. A key component of the local’s political outreach is organizing community support.

“We recognize the richness and power of coalitions,” Ibañez said. “That explains how we elected our full school board slate last November. When we’re fighting for our rights, we’re also fighting for our students’ rights. Our families trust us, and that trust extends to the community.”

Key allies include tenants rights advocates, San Francisco Rising, and ACCE. About 700 UESF members and supporters, attended a recent contract rally.

Community ties don’t grow overnight, Ibañez cautioned. “Let people know what you do. Go to their events and donate some money. It shows we care and want to work with them.”

Senator Josh Newman: The value of one vote

ORANGE COUNTY CONSERVATIVES launched a recall campaign against Josh Newman almost as soon as the Democrat won his state Senate seat by a whisper in 2016. 

Conservatives say they want to recall Newman because he voted to raise the state gas tax. In fact, his 0.6 percent victory margin touched a nerve because it gave Democrats a two-thirds majority in the upper house.

Newman thanked Orange County members for their ongoing support, saying, “No single force in the last 150 years has had such a profound impact on economic growth and access as the labor movement.”

Newman joined the union of trade and craft workers in the entertainment industry as a young video producer. The freshman legislator keeps his IATSE membership current and made his position on public education clear.

“I’m happy to stand with unions in the fight against the charter school industry. It’s the right side.” The associated problem of contracting out, he added, affects classified employees the most.