#DumpDeVos: Demonstrators at a boisterous event in Oakland — organized on social media in just a few days — denounced the nomination of Betsy DeVos for U.S. Secretary of Education. Hundreds of parents, educators, and students gathered at a noon rally on January 31.
Speakers raised concerns about DeVos’s fundamental lack of experience in public education, her support for corporate charters and school vouchers, and her track record dismantling public schools in her home state of Michigan.
The protest played out in schools across the state too. The Salinas Valley Federation of Teachers waged a “Wear Red for Ed” campaign in support of public education and in opposition to the DeVos appointment. With less than a day’s notice, many members donned red to draw attention to the dangers facing public education.
Despite the passionate protests, DeVos was confirmed in February by a one-vote margin. The AFT and other national groups have ramped up their watchdog efforts in the Capitol.
#AcademicFreedom: Following last November’s election, the Republican Club at Orange Coast College sent a member into the class of instructor Olga Perez Stable Cox. His mission: record her. During her human sexuality class, answering a student’s question, Cox said that in her opinion Trump was a “white supremacist,” and that Vice President Mike Pence was “anti-gay.”
The video was posted on the internet, and abetted by a conservative media push, she faced a blizzard of insults, called a “libtard,” “Marxist,” “nutcase,” “vile leftist filth” and a “satanic cult member.” Death threats forced her to move out of her house and go on leave for the remainder of the semester.
Meanwhile, her union and student supporters came out, 200 strong, for a campus rally in her defense.
The student who recorded her ignored the policy in the syllabus, campus policy, and California state law, in recording Cox without permission. College administrators suspended the student, but then retracted the suspension after another wave of right-wing emails and phone calls.
The faculty union, the Coast Federation of Educators, issued a statement saying the union is “deeply disappointed that the Coast Community College District administration has capitulated to individuals and groups who threatened and bullied students, faculty and administration. On behalf of a planned, covert partisan agenda, one student’s actions have harmed the educational experience for all students and made classrooms less safe.”
#FreeCity: In November San Francisco voters passed Proposition W, which promises to raise $44 million annually through a small increase in property tax rates on properties worth over $5 million. Although it was sold as a mechanism to make City College of San Francisco tuition-free, the measure also sent money to numerous programs. Subsequent negotiations between Supervisor Jane Kim and the mayor resulted in an agreement.
Starting this fall, residents already receiving financial aid will be eligible for more assistance — reimbursement for books and transportation vouchers. Students taking 12 or more units can receive an additional $500, and those taking 6 to 11 units $200.
Union’s Building Power program works
Five locals in the Building Power program last fall developed organizing plans to increase member engagement.
Coast Federation of Classified Employees increased membership to 79 percent and strengthened its Committee on Political Education. The local scheduled mini-trainings with the executive council and conducted “Walk with Me” visits to recruit site reps.
El Camino Classified Employees increased membership to 78 percent and developed a plan to win better conditions for night shift custodians. (See related story)
Glendale College Guild increased membership to 91 percent, activating new members through its Membership and Mobilization Task Force and welcoming over 100 people at its annual fall meeting.
Lawndale Federation of Classified Employees added 34 new members while focused on winning a strong contract for noon duty employees and recruiting new site reps.
Los Rios College Federation of Teachers added 24 new members, and mobilized faculty to attend trustees meetings to secure sanctuary status for students, faculty and staff. (See related story)