North County comes of age…The Palomar Faculty Federation wants to change politics in northern San Diego County and it isn’t waiting around for someone else to do it.
“Public education is under attack and teachers and unions are fighting for survival,” said Co-President Shannon Lienhart. “Our best path forward is to find common ground, form coalitions, and work together.”
On October 4, the union hosted a Political Organizing Summit at Cal State San Marcos and invited labor, religious, and community leaders to a candid conversation about progressive political action.
North County’s conservative past and its distance from San Diego have required activists to travel to participate in forward-thinking politics. But the 50 summit attendees envisioned a local hub to identify and elect progressives and collaborate on key issues.
In the new North County Labor Alliance, according to organizer Debbie Forward, “It will be exciting to work with like-minded individuals and organizations to bring positive, progressive change to north San Diego County.”
Solidarity in Oxnard…In early December, the Oxnard School Board approved the first Project Labor Agreement in Ventura County.
The Oxnard Federation of Teachers and School Employees was instrumental in passing the local hire provision for the building of the new Camarillo High, to be called Rancho Campaña. Under the PLA, 30 percent of those hired have to come from the zip code of the Oxnard Union High School District, where the construction bond was passed.
“This is good fiscal policy because the tax dollars spent will benefit our local community,” said local President Wes Davis. “And it’s sound educational policy because graduates of our apprenticeship program will be some of the hires.”
The local worked its community coalition, CAUSE, and the county building trades. More than 200 people came to school board meetings; 30 people spoke in support. Union-endorsed board member Steve Hall, president of the Ventura College Federation, voted in favor of the PLA. Davis said, “Our electoral and community outreach are paying off.”
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Searching for solutions…Community support saved an innovative cooking and gardening program that faced closure last spring after the Berkeley Unified School District cut two-thirds of the budget. (See California Teacher, April-May)
“Even the chickens in the garden were given away because no one was left to tend them,” said Daria Wrubel of the Berkeley Council of Classified Employees, who taught gardening to 450 students at Thousand Oaks Elementary before she and more than half the classified staff were cut.
“In a district with 9,000 students,1,000 families contacted the school board to support the program. We just don’t know where the rest of the money is going to come from.”
The board approved $600,000 in bridge funding over two years, a third of the previous $1.8 million budget. Supporters are examining similar programs around the country and plan to raise an additional $600,000. The district also hired a supervisor with fundraising experience.