Raise the wage…Educators are joining the fight to raise poverty-level wages. The Berkeley Federation of Teachers is a leading participant in the campaign to raise the minimum wage in Berkeley and securing a better economic future for the city’s families.
On May 1, International Workers Day, teachers and community members demanding economic justice rallied before a City Council meeting where council members moved forward the proposed minimum wage ordinance. If passed, the measure would eventually raise Berkeley’s minimum wage to the level of Berkeley’s living wage currently set at $13.34 and adjusted for inflation.
Matt Meyer, an economics teacher at Berkeley High, made the connection between income inequality and educational opportunity. He went on to say, “We won’t stop advocating until all working families receive a fair wage.”
Organizing for power…Along with teaching eighth-grade English full-time at Sierramont Middle School, Christopher Davis, co-president of the San Jose Federation of Teachers, teaches English-as-a-Second Language at night. But even with those two jobs and writing his dissertation for a Ph.D. in education, Davis, winner of a Dedicated Union Activist Award, still mustered the time and energy to talk to everyone at the East Side Adult Education School who wasn’t a member of the union. That work paid off when membership grew from 36 to 60 members.
In related news, adult teachers in the Metropolitan Education District, and a separate unit of Local 957, just concluded contract negotiations. The MetroEd teachers negotiated a 3 percent increase to the salary schedule starting July 1 and another one-time 3 percent boost in pay at the end of this school year.
Fighting incarceration…Ana Barrera, a social studies teacher at Everett Alvarez High School in Salinas and a union representative for the Salinas Federation of Teachers, believes California should be giving young people more educational opportunities — not building bigger institutions to lock them up. So she fought against the plan for a new juvenile detention center in East Salinas, organizing community forums and garnering media attention. Local President Steve McDougall says the union is lucky to have an emerging leader like Barrera, winner of a union activism award.
Not just a job…Betty Robinson-Harris, an early childhood educator for the San Francisco Unified School District and a member of the United Educators of San Francisco who serves on the San Francisco First 5 Commission, won the 2014 CFT Raoul Teilhet, Educate, Agitate, Organize Award from the CFT EC/K-12 Council.
Robinson-Harris said she loves having a job in which she affects families by working with their children and teaching them to be respectful and responsible. She thanked her ancestors “whose shoulders I stand on” and the union, who she said is a family to her, sharing good and bad times.
“This is not a job for me,” she said. “It is my passion.