After people in leadership at the local where he is the former president, United Teachers Los Angeles, got up to talk about his mentoring, his commitment to growing the movement, and the respect they have for him, the winner of this year’s Ben Rust award, John Perez, got up to speak.

Perez said he was honored to be in the company of Ben Rust winners such as Miles Myers, Linda Tubach and Raoul Teilhet, heroes and role models to him. In particular, winning the same award as Roger Segure, a musician who worked to integrate musicians’ unions and one of the people who started UTLA, meant a lot, Perez said.

Perez called himself a sheriff in charge of his posse of 40,000-plus UTLA members, and said he was proud to be part of CFT, a positive force in society that supported Proposition 98, which requires a large percentage of the state budget be spent on education, and led the effort to pass Proposition 30, a tax on higher income people to fund education. Last year Perez was elected the president of CFT’s newly formed Council of Retired Members, to fight for issues of retirees as well as those still working in California’s schools.

CFT Vice President Betty Forrester, AFT Vice President of UTLA, said she had first decided to become a union representative under Perez’s leadership. 
“I love how his mind works,” she said. “I love it when he comes into my office, sits down and says, ‘I’ve been thinking about something. But first let me tell you a story.’”

Perez said the stereotype of people his age has them complaining about the world and younger people. But he has a lot of faith in the newer union leadership, including UTLA President Alex Caputo-Pearl, who he said is doing a great job of taking on Eli Broad, the billionaire trying to move students in Los Angeles’ public schools into charters.

“It’s like a battle between a rat and a terrier,” he said. “And my money’s on the terrier.”

EC/TK-12 Award: Claytor honored with Raoul Teilhet Award

Kmberly Claytor, the winner of the Raoul Teilhet Educate, Agitate, Organize Award, is a union person in every aspect of her life, said EC/TK-12 Council President Rico Tamayo.

“She’s always there and always a partner for justice and what’s right,” he said, talking about how he’d gotten to know her when they took a class together and Claytor impressed him by always studying. “She’s a dedicated, beautiful person.”

Claytor, a mother of four as well as a CFT vice president and president of Newport-Mesa Federation of Teachers, said the award humbled her. Claytor, who has been a negotiating team member, local secretary, and vice president and secretary-treasurer of the Orange County Labor Federation, said she doesn’t know how to turn down requests for service.

“I just do what everyone in this room does,” she said. “I feel very, very ordinary.

Legislator of the Year: Jose Medina

Many legislators, although they seem good at first, have a “shelf life,” said Community College Council President Jim Mahler, which expires when they stop responding to the people who elected them. Mahler said to combat this by finding your own candidates. Assemblyman Jose Medina, D-Riverside, winner of CFT’s Legislator of the Year Award, was just who the union was looking for.

“He is one of us,” Mahler said about the Chair of the Assembly’s Committee on Higher Education, who taught high school and part-time at community colleges. Medina said he was proud of his 34 years of teaching and spoke about his commitment to the California Master Plan as well as the importance of extending Prop. 30.

“I saw too many educators receiving pink slips before,” Medina said. “I’m a firm believer that California’s economic success is directly tied to its educational success.”