Issues range from academic freedom and racial justice to community schools

At the CFT Convention March 31 through April 2, delegates took action on 23 policy resolutions addressing topics from community schools to immigrant rights to the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Resolution 23, “Defending academic freedom in the 21st Century,” arose from an incident with an instructor at the Orange Coast College, said Lee Gordon, Coast Federation member and Academic Senate president at the college, who spoke in favor of the resolution.

“It’s very hard to defend yourself on the local level,” he said. “We need some sort of rapid response plan in place. It’s challenging to deal one on one with Fox News.”

Gordon was talking about Professor Olga Perez Stable Cox. A student secretly videotaped Cox making remarks critical of Trump. The video was posted to Facebook, went viral, and was covered extensively by the right-wing media. 

Lita Blanc, the president of United Educators of San Francisco, also spoke in favor of the resolution, mentioning that a teacher in Mountain View who spoke against Trump was suspended. Blanc said contract provisions protecting academic freedom are necessary. 

“We need to teach the truth,” she said. “We want to carry out our work, and we need academic freedom to do it.”

Rob Schneiderman, the president of the Coast Federation of Educators, said the media attention had been overwhelming and thanked CFT for its help.

“It was a planned attack on the faculty by the right wing,” he said. “We need more organization and support — there’s nothing in the contract to help us support our faculty members.”

Resolution 14, “Reclaim the promise of racial equity for Black males in California,” passed unanimously.

Van Cedric Williams, a high school history teacher and a member of UESF, said his students will be happy to hear about the resolution and thanked the CFT for supporting it.

“Let’s not just speak about it, let’s be about it,” Williams said.

UESF’s Susan Solomon, United Teachers Los Angeles’ Ingrid Gunnell and Cecily Myart-Cruz, City College of San Francisco’s AFT 2121’s Tim Killikelly, Dennis Cox from the Retiree Chapter of the ABC Federation of Teachers, and Morgan Hill Federation of Teachers’ Gemma Abels were among other speakers in favor of the resolution.

Cathy Campbell, president of the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, called passing this policy one of the most important actions of the convention. The resolution was based on a report from the CFT Racial Equity Task Force, Reclaiming the Promise of Racial Equity for Black Males in California, that she called a “laser-focused document that is actually a call to action” for things that can be done locally.

Jim Miller of the AFT Guild in San Diego spoke in favor of Resolution 11, which he co-authored, “Make International Workers’ Day a state holiday.” It proposed combining the holidays for Lincoln and Washington into a single holiday and making May 1st International Workers’ Day in California. “This is the direction we need to go,” Miller said.

There was much debate on this, with some delegates saying they didn’t want to go back and tell their members that they had forfeited a holiday. They proposed just asking for May 1 as International Workers’ Day without offering to give up anything. An amendment to the resolution, stating this, was proposed. Jim Mahler, the president of the AFT Guild, spoke against the amendment, saying the purpose of the language was to avoid fiscal impact.

“It’s not viable if we just say we want an extra holiday,” he said.

The vote on the amendment was so close delegates were required to stand to be counted. It lost the vote and the resolution to create a new holiday to honor laborers passed.

Significant resolutions passed by delegates

1 Provide assistance to members about immigration enforcement
4 Increase support for local unions working to establish community schools
5 Prohibit classroom recording without instructor consent in support of academic freedom
6 Amend definition of probationary period for classified employees in Education Code
11 Make International Workers’ Day a state holiday
12 Provide paid pregnancy disability and maternity leaves
14 Reclaiming the promise of racial equity for Black males in California
18 Oppose the Dakota Access Pipeline
20 Increase support for organizing new retiree chapters
22 Taking a humane stance on solitary confinement
27 Oppose UC tuition and fee increases

»Delegates also passed Amendment 1, containing the annual constitutional per capita increase. Find all constitutional amendments and resolutions passed by delegates in the Resolutions Report.