By Joshua Pechthalt, CFT President
I have been hearing from CFT members who supported Donald Trump and are not happy that the CFT is sticking its nose into politics.
We would be looking at a much different scenario in our schools and colleges, our communities and unions, and in Sacramento, if the CFT had not led the way on the Millionaires Tax, which became Proposition 30 and now Proposition 55, and before that, led the way on Proposition 25, the Majority Budget Act.
Decisions about public education, workers’ rights, immigration, the climate, women’s rights, and other political issues have a direct effect on our lives and all unions have an obligation to comment on them and shape them.
In the last few weeks, I have had many discussions trying to sort out the implications of a Trump presidency. His nomination for Education Secretary, Betsy DeVos, who has been a pro-voucher, pro-charter school advocate, demonstrates he wants to privatize and charterize public schools. President-elect Trump is making clear where he wants to take the country.
Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, who has said positive things about the KKK and will likely head the Justice Department, indicates this administration will not be an advocate for criminal justice reform, voting rights, and countless other social justice efforts. More disturbing will be Trump’s appointments to the Supreme Court. A generation of justices will be in the majority and committed to an agenda that is opposed to union rights, women’s rights, voting rights, environmental protection, and other matters that will affect our children and grandchildren.
The recent election was not only a referendum on Trump and the failure of globalization, it was also a failure of the Democratic Party and organized labor to offer answers that resonated with millions of workers.
Trump has also strengthened his relationship with Steve Bannon, the former leader of Breitbart News and one of the leaders of a movement known as the alt-right. The alt-right sees this appointment as an opportunity to fan the flames of white nationalism, racism and anti-Semitism. One needs only to watch the Nazi salute at a recent gathering of alt-right supporters in the nation’s capital to be alarmed. The similarities with the rise of fascism in Europe in the 1930s, and the growing neo-fascist movement now gaining traction in Western European countries, are chilling and require a response.
While the CFT develops a response, let me emphasize some of the elements I think should be included. First we must defend diversity among all our students and members by working to form sanctuary schools, sanctuary districts and beyond. We can’t allow the anti-immigrant rhetoric of the president-elect to poison our state.
We need to double down on organizing our members. The end of fair share will happen and all unionized workers will be under attack. Organizing will prepare for that.
There needs to be a reassessment of the labor movement and the
Democratic Party. Both the CFT and our national union, the AFT,
need to help spark that discussion. The recent election was not
only a referendum on Trump and the failure of globalization, it
was also a failure of the Democratic Party and organized labor to
offer answers that resonated with millions of workers.
We can expect more of the same unless we learn from this disastrous experience. These will be difficult years ahead. Engaged, active members are the first step toward a vital union capable of surviving and flourishing.