CFT member and baseball coach John Altobelli was killed in the tragic helicopter crash in Calabasas on January 26, along with his wife, daughter, and six others including NBA great Kobe Bryant and his teenage daughter.
Editor’s note: With uniquely linked histories, the CFT and AFT Local 61 both celebrate their 100th Anniversaries in 2019. What follows is a capsule history of the oldest local union in the California Federation of Teachers. From the search for true union representation in 1919 to the quest for affordable housing for union members 100 years later, the history of AFT Local 61 — the United Educators of San Francisco — is one of proud support for educators, their unions and students.
Rusty Hicks, known to the larger California public as the newly elected leader of the California Democratic Party, is known to the students of the Los Angeles Community College District and the Los Angeles College Faculty Guild, Local 1521, by another title since 2016 — Adjunct Instructor of Labor Studies.
Sam Russo, one of the core group who organized Adjunct Faculty United, AFT Local 6106, died on May 5. He was president of the local for 12 years, and served on the negotiations team for a number of years.
UTLA’s fight to save public education resonated far and wide. Messages of solidarity and selfies of fist-pumping teachers poured in from Kentucky to Canada. Union locals across Los Angeles set up support networks for more than 200 LAUSD schools. For Writers Guild members, joining teachers on picket lines was an opportunity to pay back their mentors.
United Teachers Los Angeles has fought for nearly 50 years to give parents a greater voice in how their children’s schools are run. In recent years, UTLA stepped up its outreach by hiring community organizers, building coalitions, and working with supporters in changing neighborhoods.
Those efforts bore fruit in January, when thousands of parents joined teachers on picket lines across the 700-square-mile school district to fight for “the schools our students deserve.”
Manual Arts High School has a proud 109-year history. Alumni include painter Jackson Pollock, actor Paul Winfield, and tennis champion Richard “Pancho” Gonzalez. Former teacher Josh Pechthalt was shaped by – and has helped to reshape – the South L.A. fixture.
CFT President Josh Pechthalt was a student at Fairfax High in 1970, when United Teachers Los Angeles struck for nearly a month. He later taught social studies at Manual Arts High School for more than 20 years, and was on the front lines in 1989, when UTLA struck a second time.
During the strike, hundreds of retired L.A. teachers returned to their former schools to continue the fight for public education. One veteran of the two previous strikes said back then UTLA was up against an intransigent district, but didn’t have to face billionaires and unrestrained charter school growth.
UTLA-Retired is now mobilizing all its 4,300 members for the special election in March to fill a key seat on the LAUSD school board and tilt the balance away from a pro-charter majority.
Eight days after the six-day strike had ramped up public pressure, the Los Angeles Unified school board passed a groundbreaking resolution calling for a moratorium on new charters in the district until Sacramento completes a study of how their unchecked expansion has affected traditional schools. The district also made a significant investment in local community schools.
With a massive outpouring of community support, a new generation of teachers shut down the country’s second-largest school district in a fight for the future of public education. UTLA members launched their first strike in 30 years to deliver “the schools our kids deserve.”
A week later they were well on their way.
Cerritos faculty are taking a stand for equity.
“Right now our college doesn’t provide any sort of health benefit to part-timers,” explained local President Stephanie Rosenblatt. “Most of the districts around us provide at least some sort of reimbursement scheme, in which part-time faculty are reimbursed at even a minimal level for their healthcare premiums.”
According to Danielle Short, classified vice president for San Diego’s AFT Guild, the local was looking for ways to make campus tabling more dynamic and encourage more conversation with members.
A brainstorming session led to the idea of a giant photo frame. Campus printing services helped create the frame and printed it. “We used it for our tabling,” Short said. “And then we just ran with it for other events and outreach. It definitely breaks the ice — and it’s a lot of fun.”
The Antelope Valley Federation awarded six scholarships at a May 18 event sponsored by the college foundation.
High school seniors Star Collins and Amanda Martinez each received $500 from the Karen Curtis Scholarship, which the AFT Local 4683 created to honor one of the union’s driving forces, CFT Field Representative Karen Curtis.
Today thousands of educators from across Los Angeles jammed Grand Park today in a rally for “the Schools LA Students Deserve.” They arrived by rail, bus, car and on foot—wearing UTLA red to send a loud message to the Los Angeles Unified School District that teachers will not stop fighting for smaller class sizes, fully staffed schools, clean and safe schools, and fair compensation.
United Teachers Los Angeles was joined in the rally by students, parents, and community groups and supported by its affiliates CFT, CTA, AFT and NEA.
There are adjunct survival guides out there which give basic union info, and perhaps maybe where the copy machines are located on campus, then there’s The Part-Timer’s Almanac, A Compendium of Valuable Information, which is perhaps the most comprehensive, adjunct-oriented union publication published by a local union.
#MembershipBlitz In November the Peralta Federation of Teachers, launched a six-day membership drive as part of a year-long strategy to recruit and engage members.
To prepare, the union audited membership files to make sure it had a signed membership form for every member. It then coordinated instructor schedules, recruited volunteers, finalized logistics, and assembled new member packets with helpful union information and a new union sticker.
Facing a crisis of affordable housing that threatens to push educators out of the city, United Educators of San Francisco’s 6,200 teachers, early childhood educators, paraprofessionals, nurses and social workers negotiated an 11 percent pay increase over three years, as well as annual bonuses. The overall compensation package will grow to 16 percent if voters approve a parcel tax that city leaders hope to place on the ballot in 2018.
The Long Beach Council of Classified Employees ratified a three-year agreement providing significant economic relief and longer holidays for about 425 members.
Pay will increase 3 percent the first year retroactive to this July 1, followed by cost-of-living increases of at least 2.1 percent and 2.35 percent the second and third years.
AFT Local 6142 members made two important gains at the bargaining table with front-loaded pay raises and a reworked system of longevity stipends.
Chief Negotiator Luukia Smith said El Camino College staff will receive a 5 percent raise for 2017 retroactive to January 1, with at least 1.28 percent more in 2018 and a cost-of living increase the following year.
Monica Marlatt, a career development specialist for Santa Cruz city schools, has good cause to appreciate her membership in AFT Local 6084, the Santa Cruz Council of Classified Employees.
Marlatt’s daughter, Madeline, is studying nursing at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. Books and nursing fees alone totaled $900 last semester, but help is on the way. This summer the CFT awarded Madeline, and eight more continuing college students, a Raoul Teilhet Scholarship for $3,000.
#ScienceMarch Numerous local unions took a stand for reason, facts and scientific analysis in the Science March and Climate March held during the month of May, including groups from the Greater Santa Cruz Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 2030, and UC-AFT San Diego, AFT Local 2226.
#DumpDeVos: Demonstrators at a boisterous event in Oakland — organized on social media in just a few days — denounced the nomination of Betsy DeVos for U.S. Secretary of Education. Hundreds of parents, educators, and students gathered at a noon rally on January 31.
Instructional support staff members of AFT Local 6525 were proud to learn that The Aspen Institute had named their school, Pasadena City College, one of the 10 best community colleges in the country. The institute bases its assessments on a rigorous analysis of student performance and achievement data.
Every fall, the College Staff Guild meets to address on-the-job and political issues in the Los Angeles community colleges. This year, more than 200 members of AFT Local 1521A took on another challenge: disaster preparedness.
Fifty survival packs were raffled, members heard from preparedness experts at the Red Cross and they committed to work with their campus emergency response committees as part of shared governance.
And what do the experts say? Being prepared when trouble hits greatly raises the odds of survival. Here are three easy steps to take now:
#NoDAPL: University members have been steadfast in support of the Standing Rock Sioux resisting the Dakota Access Pipeline that threatens tribal water sources. On November 10, UC-AFT Berkeley members rallied in front of Wells Fargo Bank in Oakland, urging it to stop financing the pipeline.
As the only part-time faculty member of an American Sociological Association taskforce assembled to investigate the teaching of sociology within community colleges, Peralta Federation of Teachers member and Laney College instructor Cynthia Mahabir co-authored a scholarly study of data collected from part-time sociology instructors in the nation’s community colleges.
Contagious…This spring Ann Marie Wasserbauer, president of the Association of College Educators, delivered 513 petitions from faculty and students to the West Valley-Mission Community College Board of Trustees with the message: “Come back to the bargaining table!”
On May 17, the National Labor Relations Board ordered the Sacramento Job Corps to return four more residential advisors to their jobs with full pay and benefits. The NLRB decision makes nine AFT Local 4986 members who have been reinstated and made whole more than 26 months after their initial terminations.
The NLRB also ruled that six residential coordinators were unlawfully removed from the bargaining unit, and adopted an administrative law judge’s finding that the employers are liable for the unfair labor practices.
Reclaiming schools…. On May 4, teachers, support staff, parents, students, elected officials and others participated in a series of walk-ins and other events in support of public education. Spurred on by the Alliance to Reclaim Our Schools, which held walk-ins across the country, CFT members in schools from districts in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Daly City and Morgan Hill, as well as Cerritos College, turned out to show support for the high-quality public schools that all our students deserve.
LOCALS 1481, 1493, 3267
Schools our students deserve… More than 250 parents, teachers, school staff, students, and community members attended the “Schools Our Children Deserve” conference at Skyline College on March 19 to hold a four-hour conversation about what should be happening in North San Mateo County public schools.
Campus Equity Week draws attention to inequities among faculty in higher education and calls for economic justice, job security, and institutional support for contingent and part-time faculty. Originally organized by the Coalition of Contingent Academic Labor, these October events aim to bring greater awareness to the precarious situation for contingent faculty in higher education, organize for action, and build solidarity.
Magic can’t pay the rent…With the average price of a house over one million dollars, San Francisco is the most expensive real estate market in the nation.
»Gilroy Federation of Paraeducators negotiated a 5.5 percent pay increase retroactive to December 1, a one-time 2 percent raise back to July 2014, adjustments of 3 percent for most job classes, increased stipends and out-of-class pay.
»Weaver Federation of Educational Employees will see a 5 percent raise retroactive to July 1, 2014, and 1.1 percent off-schedule for the entire year; another 5 percent raise and one-time 1.1 percent lump sum on July 1, and a third 5 percent pay increase in July 2016.
Only four of 125 Job Corps centers in the United States are unionized, and CFT members staff two of them. Adams & Associates is the private contractor managing both Job Corps centers — with very different results.
In San Francisco, AFT Local 6319 represents 150 staff in the Treasure Island Job Corps Workers Union. Local President Emily Rapaport said the Department of Labor ranks centers on student job placement and a range of other metrics. “Since Adams came in about five years ago, we have been either number one or two in the country.”
Funding in limbo… The last few years have been a terrible time in the adult education world, according to Jack Carroll, the executive director at the Pajaro Valley Federation of Teachers. Carroll, who teaches office skills to adults, hopes AB86 will alleviate that by providing $25 million for adult education.
Part-time instructors at Allan Hancock College negotiated an 8 percent pay increase over the next two years starting this spring when all part-time academic employees received a 4 percent salary increase. They will get a 2 percent raise this fall and another in fall 2016. In a tremendous boost, service faculty (counselors, librarians, and nurses) received an additional 20 percent pay increase.
LA turns out for education.… Thousands of people jammed Grand Park on February 26 in a rally for “Schools LA Students Deserve.” They wore red to send the message to Los Angeles Unified: Teachers will not stop fighting for high-quality education including culturally relevant classes; smaller class sizes in fully-staffed clean and safe schools with social and emotional support for students; and fair compensation for teachers, counselors, nurses and librarians. Students, parents, and community groups joined United Teachers Los Angeles at the rally.
With City College of San Francisco still in limbo status due to unfair sanctions from the Accrediting Commission for Junior and Community Colleges, nearly 150 part-time faculty have lost their jobs in the past couple of years and few, if any, part-time counselors have been rehired.
Two CFT members were named Labor Leaders of the Year by the Tri-Counties Central Labor Council: Steve Hall, president of the Ventura County Federation of College Teachers, and Debra Stakes president of the Cuesta College Federation of Teachers. Congratulations Steve and Debra!
Protecting the rehire pool…When administrators at Oakland’s Laney College chose not to rehire part-time sociology professor and Peralta Federation of Teachers Part-time Faculty Representative Cynthia Mahabir, and two other members of the Part-time Faculty Rehire Preference Pool, the faculty rallied quickly.
Today teachers across the Petaluma City Schools District leafleted parents before and after school, asking them to contact the school board in support of a decent contract settlement that can properly support a quality education. Petaluma teachers have not had a cost of living adjustment in seven years.
The Petaluma Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 1881, representing more than 425 teachers, counselors, psychologists, nurses and other certificated employees in the Petaluma City Schools District, has recently turned up the heat in support of contract negotiations.
Aromas-San Juan Federation of Classified Employees negotiated a 3 percent raise and 1 percent off-schedule, plus lowered health insurance premiums and out-of-pocket costs.
Gilroy Federation paraprofessionals will see a 4.5 percent salary increase and 1 percent off-schedule, as well as a reclassification study to compare the pay in surrounding districts.
Weaver Federation of Educational Employees negotiated a 6.5 percent raise for all workers and an additional 1 percent for some.
After months of mobilizing staff, parents and community allies from Watts and Koreatown to East Los Angeles, Early Childhood Federation President Ruben Siguenza recently sent supporters some bad news. “I regret to inform you that our fight is over,” Siguenza wrote in an April 18 email. “We have lost Kedren Head Start.”
Four years ago, school security aides in San Francisco gave up an hour from their eight-hour day when their supervisor told a roomful of the workers it would save the jobs of two young women. The hours were to be restored in two years.
Along with the hour-a-day layoff, the safety workers — known as “T-10s” for their job designation — also endured five furlough days per year.
Raise the wage…Educators are joining the fight to raise poverty-level wages. The Berkeley Federation of Teachers is a leading participant in the campaign to raise the minimum wage in Berkeley and securing a better economic future for the city’s families.
Community support saved an innovative cooking and gardening program that faced closure last spring, but only leftovers remain after the Berkeley Unified School District cut two-thirds of the budget.
“Even the chickens in the garden were given away because no one was left to tend them,” said Daria Wrubel of the Berkeley Council of Classified Employees. Wrubel taught gardening to 450 students at Thousand Oaks Elementary before she and more than half the classified staff were cut.