Jeff Freitas, President of the CFT, emphasized in his address to the attendees of the annual Council of Classified Employees Conference that the organization isn’t a teacher’s union, but a union of teachers and classified professionals.
“We have made sure that we represent everybody in the field of education in the classroom, as well as outside of the classroom,” he said.
“We cannot open our schools without the classified, we cannot have our classes, the students could not get there without bus drivers, they would not be fed without cafeteria workers, they would not be welcomed in the morning without classified employees. We cannot have that without you. So, thank you for what you do.”
CFT has a strategic vision of “United for Justice, United for Education,” Freitas said, with each word carefully chosen. Although different divisions are represented, they are united for one another and each other’s causes — like all the members of United Educators of San Francisco working to get $30 an hour for the classified professionals.
And everyone fought to get the $200 million from the state to fund part-time health care, Freitas said, and now the goal is to get healthcare for all education workers.
As a union, CFT fights for the rights of all workers, Freitas said, as well as justice for communities. A wage that lets people be able to pay rent is a great first step, he added, but CFT wants more for the people who educate children and adults.
“We fight not just for a livable wage, but for a fun, enjoyable wage,” he told attendees. “We don’t want to just make enough to have a roof over our heads and food on our table, we need to be able to enjoy life as well. That is so important, and that is a part of worker justice.”
Freitas also told the roomful of people he was wearing some great socks, with “I Read Banned Books” printed on them. He cautioned people about the need to teach children the truth.
“They are banning books about Ruby Bridges,” he said. “They’re banning books about Anne Frank. They are banning books to not let us know the history so that we don’t repeat it. They’re trying to destroy public education.”
Freitas also spoke about schools wanting to force students to use the pronouns they were born with and banning Pride flags. He pointed to signs around the room reading, “All are welcome and safe here” in a rainbow of colors and encouraged people to take them and hang them at school, for both students and workers.
Freitas said he wants the power and progress in California to spread to states like Texas and Florida. He said people ask him why he doesn’t advertise for education workers in Florida to come to California to help the staffing crisis here.
“I don’t want them to leave. I want them to fight, and I want to fight with them, so that we can live anywhere in this country and feel safe,” he said. “We don’t, but we will, I promise you that. That is what united for justice and education is, and I want to thank you for doing that all together.”