Editor’s note: What follows is a condensed version of an inspiring presentation from our annual Classified Conference.
My name is Carl Williams and I am southern vice president of the CFT Council of Classified Employees, a CFT vice president, proud president of the Lawndale Federation of Classified Employees, a father, a husband… and a Unionist. Now don’t get me wrong, I have not always been a Unionist… the transition from union member is not instantaneous.
“Good morning, San Francisco!” Luukia Smith called out to a sea of striking Marriott hotel workers and their supporters. Among the crowd were CFT classified employees who had bussed from the Classified Conference on October 20 to join the downtown rally.
Watsonville, California, a produce powerhouse — July 1985: Mort Console, owner of Watsonville Canning, the major company in town, suddenly cuts wages by 40 percent and reduces health benefits. The factory workers of Teamsters Local 912 immediately vote to go out on strike, just as Console’s anti-union law firm has advised him they would: “Make outrageous demands; the workers will strike. Replace them with scabs. After 12 months, request a union decertification vote, which will then include the strikebreakers too.”
Government turns to violence, refuses to negotiate
Since the killing of nine demonstrators in the Oaxacan town of Nochixtlán on June 19, Mexico has been in an uproar over the force used against teachers resisting corporate education reform. As the school year started on August 22, teachers in four states refused to return to classes until the perpetrators of the massacre are held responsible and there is a negotiated agreement to change the government’s program.
How the female perspective helps new local presidents succeed
Five women spoke to California Teacher about their first months as new presidents of AFT local unions. These leaders relate how their perspective as women shapes their approach to the challenges unions face.
Old school troubadour and modern Joe Hill among top labor artists and activists
Jimmy Kelly comes from a union family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where his grandfather, father and two brothers were all union members. “I grew up in a different era, in a town that traced the origin of its labor movement to the great strikes in the steel mills,” he recalls. “We learned labor terms in fourth grade.”
How does a new PG&E worker like Nilda Garcia become an organizer traveling the nation to fight for social justice? Garcia is one of a group of “organizing stewards” that has ignited passion in her union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 1245.
Union asks members not to purchase supplies at low-wage retailer
The CFT is boycotting office supply retailer Staples at the request of the American Postal Workers Union, which is opposing a no-bid sweetheart deal between the U.S. Postal Service and the giant office supply retailer to operate postal counters in Staples stores. An estimated one-third of Staples’ revenues come from the sale of school supplies, many purchased by teachers and other school employees for classrooms.
Seven-year journey to bring overtime protections to personal attendants
They work in the shadows of society and have been excluded from the most basic of labor protections. Yet those domestic workers who care for seniors, children and the disabled, have risen above their historic isolation, built an effective coalition and performed the seven years of heavy lifting that saw their struggle succeed.
The CFT’s emerging campaign for quality public education underscores the fundamental problem we face in this country — the lack of a powerful social movement for economic, political and social equality.