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the voice of the union


February b March 2011 Volume 64, Number 3 

c a l i f o r n i a f e d e r at i o n o f t e a c h e r s , A f t a f l - c i o

When charters go union

Schools and educators win

CFT members step up for Wisconsin

Hendricks runs for CalSTRS Board

L.A. unions fly to Madison Pages 3 and 16

L.A. college instructor brings know-how Page 14

‘Parent trigger’ fails in Compton Parents betrayed by process Page 8


In this issue


All-Union News Going Viral Charter Schools Parent Trigger

3 5 6 8

Around CFT 13 Community College 14 University 15 Local Wire 16

  Marty Hittelman, CFT President

Parting thoughts: We rose to the challenge… and achieved great things during tough times

I joined the AFT as a college student in 1961 and have been active ever since. When I began teaching I never thought I would spend so much of my time in union activities, but I have never regretted it.


Working together, we achieved one of the greatest political successes in California history last November. The CFT helped elect all of its targeted, pro-education candidates, including Jerry Brown as governor and Barbara Boxer as U.S. senator. The voters approved our Proposition 25 (majority vote for the state budget) by a substantial margin and defeated an attempt to dismantle California’s climate change law. We continue to have majority support for education and other important public services in both houses of the state Legislature. In short, we won big. We also brought a message of hope with our historic March for California’s Future up the Central Valley from Bakersfield to Sacramento. The public heard our call to defend the California Dream. Polling has shown that our efforts changed voting patterns in the Central Valley. The Fight for California’s Future carried into November. We experienced the most successful activation of our members in an election ever — yet the fight continues. We are now concentrating on a possible Special Election in June that will help provide needed state

revenue. We are also beginning a campaign to improve the image of educators and other public workers. We plan to counter the anti-educator, anti-public employee rhetoric being used against us. But the CFT cannot successfully carry on the fight alone. We are working with allies in the California Labor Federation, the Courage Campaign, the California Alliance, and other progressive coalitions. We understand that an injury to one is an injury to all. We will move our agenda forward as we fight our opponents’ proposals to weaken unions and collective bargaining rights, to reduce our healthcare and pension provisions, and to privatize schools and other public services. We will fight market ideology being applied to public education. We are confident that in the end, the people of California will agree with our vision. I will not be seeking reelection as president of the CFT at our convention this month. I am extremely proud to have served as president of such a great union. We have outstanding leaders statewide and in our local unions. We also have outstanding employees who serve our members every day.

I joined the AFT as a college student in 1961 and have been active ever since. I have enjoyed being a math teacher for more than 40 years, first at the high school and then at the community college level. When I began teaching I never thought I would spend so much of my time in union activities, but I have never regretted it. Union work is important work. My goal has always been to make the environment for educators the best it can be. I believe that better working conditions make better schools and higher quality education. I take it personally when media pundits and so-called “reformers” imply that we are not interested in the education of our students, but only interested in protecting the union and its members. We all went into education with the goal of helping students grow to their full potentials. We keep that goal in mind as we carry out our daily responsibilities. So thank you all, for allowing me to have a career that I can be proud of. Persevere,

The California Federation of Teachers is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO. The CFT represents faculty and classified workers in public and private schools and colleges, from early childhood through higher education. The CFT is committed to raising the standards of the profession and to securing the conditions essential to provide the best service to California’s students.

CaliforniaTeacher (ISSN 0410-3556) is published four times a year in September/October, November/ December, February/March and April/May by the California Federation of Teachers, 2550 N. Hollywood Way, Suite 400, Burbank, CA 91505, and mailed to all CFT members and agency fee payers. Annual subscription price: $3 (included in membership dues). For others: $10 per year. Periodicals postage paid at Burbank and additional mailing offices.

Direct letters or other editorial submissions to the editor. Letters must not exceed 200 words and must include your name, address, and phone number. Letters will be edited for clarity and length.

President Marty Hittelman

Postmaster: Send address corrections to California Teacher, 2550 N. Hollywood Way, Suite 400, Burbank, CA 91505.

Editor Jane Hundertmark

ON THE COVER To bring the benefits of a collective voice to the workplace, sixth grade teacher Melah Muckelroy helped organize workers into a union at Accelerated Charter School in South Central Los Angeles. Photo by bob riha, jr

Secretary-Treasurer Dennis Smith senior Vice-President Mary Alice Callahan executive council Velma Butler, Cathy Campbell, Kimberly Claytor, Melinda Dart, Carl Friedlander, Betty Forrester, Miki Goral, Marc Houle, Carolyn Ishida, Sharon Johnson, Dennis Kelly, Jim Mahler, Elaine Merriweather, Alisa Messer, Dean Murakami, Joshua Pechthalt, Gary Ravani, Zwi Reznik, Laura Rico, Francisco Rodriguez, Sam Russo, Bob Samuels, Luukia Smith, Rosa María Torres, Kent Wong, David Yancey

California Teacher, a member of the International Labor Communications Association and the AFT Communicators Network, is printed by union workers at Pacific Standard Press in Sacramento using soy-based inks. The paper is Forest Stewardship Council-certified and contains 10 percent post-consumer recycled content. ®

Editorial office California Federation of Teachers, 1201 Marina Village Pkwy., Suite 115, Alameda, California 94501 Telephone 510-523-5238 Fax 510-523-5262 Email Contributors this issue David Bacon, Velma Butler, Kevin Cronin, Patty Cox, Megan Dias, Jeff Freitas, Carl Friedlander, Fred Glass, Andy Griggs, Marty Hittelman, Lance Howland, Elaine Johnson, Paul Karrer, Judith Michaels, Mindy Pines, Francisco Rodriguez, Bob Samuels, Dolores Sanchez, Leah Sugarman, Malcolm Terence, Ed Wang Graphic Design Kajun Design, Graphic Artists Guild

977-M IBT 853

Cert no. SW-COC-001530

For more news from the Federation, visit 2

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Taxpayers believe in unions.

around the union…

All-Union News Madison is ground zero for all union members

Rosemary Lee

Polls show broad support for Wisconsin workers who face union busting

Betty Forrester, left, was one of 10 CFT members who flew to Madison to show L.A.’s support.

The public is saying they support workers in the face of union busting by Republican-controlled state governments funded by wealthy, stealthy right-wing patrons like multibillionaires David and Charles Koch. A USA Today/Gallup poll found 61 percent of Americans nationwide oppose a law like the one being pro-

posed in Wisconsin that hammers the organizing ability of all unions. In Wisconsin, a poll of likely voters showed 42 percent supported the GOP plan and 52 percent opposed it. As pro-union demonstrations spread to Ohio, Indiana and beyond, support has streamed in to Wisconsin from across the country. Faculty and staff

in the San Diego area community colleges represented by the AFT Guild, Local 1931, offered safe haven in their homes to the 14 Wisconsin state senators who left the capitol to stop the anti-union Republican steamroller. Guild president Jim Mahler also promised airfare to San Diego and logistical support. Meanwhile, in Los Angeles, 160 workers from 40 unions, including 10 CFT members, spent the night in Madison on February 24 to demonstrate L.A’s support. (See page 16) Addressing the protesters, AFT President Randi Weingarten said the Wisconsin governor had given large tax breaks to corporations but was using the state’s economic problems as a ploy to end collective bargaining by public unions. Social media posts, changing by the hour, list rallies and vigils at state-

houses across the country. One in Sacramento drew 2,000 people. MoveOn.Org called for rallies at every state capitol and raised $315,000 in a few hours, mostly for air mattresses for the thousands of protesters occupying the Capitol. Facebookers listed the phone number of the pizza joint near the Capitol that would deliver pizza and drinks to serve eight for $20. So many orders poured in from around the world (including Egypt), that it had to close its outlets to accommodate the flood. — By Malcolm Terence, CFT Reporter

Take Action! >Show up at the state Capitol in Madison — there will be work for you! At home, make contributions to support efforts in Wisconsin at, and use social media to express solidarity. ­

Brown’s budget moves revenues to likely June Special Election As expected, Gov. Jerry Brown presented a January budget proposal that includes both revenue enhancements and painful cuts to address the state’s two-year $25 billion shortfall. At press time, the Assembly and Senate Budget Committees had adopted most of the governor’s proposals. The joint Conference Committee was resolving differences between the two versions. Legislators set a mid-March target date to complete the budget, which may include ballot measures proposed by Gov. Brown that require voter approval in a June Special Election. One of these measures calls for much-needed revenue by extending the 2009 temporary taxes. Brown’s budget faces three significant hurdles. The first, getting Democrats to agree, contrary to their basic

values, to deep cuts they had refused to make in the past, but which address $13 billion in deficit reduction. The next barrier is getting enough Republican votes to put tax extensions on the ballot. And finally California voters must be convinced that the solution to our budget problem requires both increasing revenues and cutting expenditures. If voters approve the tax extensions, Gov. Brown promises to maintain funding levels from last year for K-12 and extend categorical flexibility for two more years. The community colleges face $300 million in cuts, with student fees increasing from $26 to $36 per unit. The governor exempts state preschool programs from cuts, and proposes lowering the income eligibility for child care assistance in CalWORKs.

How does the governor propose to balance the budget? Borrowing and fund shifts

7.2% Temporary revenue solutions (measures on potential June ballot)




8% Permanent revenue solutions (corporate tax fairness)

Total 2010 –11 solutions = $26.4


Both UC and CSU face a $500 million cut and more student fee increases. Consider that the good news. What if voters fail to approve tax

extensions in June? The governor has not proposed additional cuts, but at the request of Sen. Mark Leno, chair of the Senate Budget and Fiscal Review Committee, the non-partisan Legislative Analysts’ Office developed a list of alternatives to balance the 2011-12 budget if voters reject the tax extensions. Under the LAO scenario, education would face staggering additional cuts: $4 billion for K-12, $700 million for community colleges, $900 million for UC and CSU. The LAO also suggested problematic policy changes to reduce costs, ranging from tuition increases to a shorter school year. Given these alternatives, providing Californians the opportunity to vote for additional revenues could be our best chance to reverse the state’s dire fiscal decline. — By Patty Cox, CFT Research Specialist

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CFT introduces eleven bills in the Legislature Members communicate their ideas for union-sponsored legislation from a number of sources including governance meetings and resolutions at CFT Convention. When the CFT adopts a sponsored bill program, lobbyists work to secure legislators to author the bills, and shepherd the bills through the legislative process to the governor’s desk. Following is the list of CFT-sponsored bills introduced in February for the coming legislative year.



Expand representation rights AB 501 (Campos, D-San Jose) Clarifies the Educational Employment Relations Act to allow all public school employees to be organized, correcting decisions made by the Public Employment Relations Board that did not recognize lunchtime aides and JPA employees as public employees.

Classroom security locks AB 85 (Mendoza, D-Artesia) Adds community college and modernization projects to the requirements established by AB 211 last year which requires school projects submitted to the Division of State Architect to include locks that allow doors to classrooms, and rooms with an occupancy of five or more persons to be locked from the inside.

Support Seal of Biliteracy AB 815 (Brownley, D-Woodland Hills) Creates a statewide Seal of Biliteracy for the diplomas and transcripts of high school graduates. CalSTRS retiree board member election AB 1101 (Eng, D-Monterey Park) Changes the retiree representative on the CalSTRS Board from one being appointed by the governor to one being elected by the retired members of CalSTRS.

Limit full-time faculty overload AB 383 (Portantino, D-LaCañada) Asks districts to negotiate a restriction on full-time instructor workload, that is, preventing full-timers from being assigned an overload or extra assignment that exceeds 50 percent of a full-time workload in any semester.

Part-time faculty rehire rights AB 852 (Fong, D-Cupertino) Provides that a part-time faculty member has a right of first refusal for teaching assignments in his or her faculty service area, subject to any greater rights provided in a collective bargaining agreement or otherwise provided by a district. Transparency in pay for adjuncts SB 114 (Yee, D-San Francisco) Requires districts to determine the compensation of part-time faculty using a salary schedule that places part-time faculty on comparable salary steps as full-time faculty with similar academic preparation and years of experience. Requires part-time faculty to be paid in a manner that mirrors the same relationship to the placement of full-time faculty on the schedule.

CLASSIFIED Evaluation of Personnel Commission directors AB 451 (Hall, D-Los Angeles) Requires the personnel commission, in school and community college districts operating under the merit system for classified school employees, to conduct a performance evaluation of the personnel commission director, and authorizes inclusion of classified school employees in that process. Death benefit equity AB 617 (Davis, D-Los Angeles) Increases the post-retirement death benefit paid to the beneficiary of a classified school member of CalPERS from $2,000 to $6,163.

K-12 EDUCATION Charter school accountability and cap AB 401 (Ammiano, D-San Francisco) Enacts a cap of 1,450 on the number of charter schools in the state and a 10 percent cap for a district. It also provides nepotism rules for charter schools. Abolish state testing for second-graders SB 740 (Hancock, D-Berkeley) Eliminates the state-required California Standards Test for second graders.

Seal of Biliteracy called for in newly introduced CFT bill Students can be recognized for advantages of multilingual achievement A major effort is underway to recognize students who are multilingual and to honor that advantage in the world marketplace. The Seal of Biliteracy is an award given by a school, district, or county office of education to students who have studied and attained proficiency in two or more languages by high school graduation. The seal appears on the transcript or diploma of the graduating senior and is a statement of accomplishment for future employers and for college admissions. The CFT has joined with Californians Together, a statewide coalition of parents, teachers, education advocates, and civil rights groups committed to securing equal access to quality education for all children, to sponsor Assembly Bill 815 (Brownley, D-Santa


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Monica). AB 815 calls for the statewide use of a Seal of Biliteracy. Last year the CFT English Language Learners Committee introduced a resolution, passed unanimously by the 2010 Convention, to support Californians Together in its effort to recognize students for attaining biliteracy skills. For ELLs who may still be learning English and are often viewed as

linguistically disadvantaged, the seal acknowledges linguistic proficiency, often in multiple languages. “This seal shifts the conversation regarding English learners from a deficit perspective,” explains Berta Gharrity, a teacher at Fernando Rivera Intermediate School in Daly City, “to a perspective that recognizes the attainment of 21st century skills necessary in this global economy.” Gharrity has taught bilingual education and ELLs for 36 years. Currently, 33 districts in California offer a Seal of Biliteracy, including Los Angeles Unified, San Francisco Unified and Glendale Unified, which

pioneered and envisioned this award initially in English and Spanish. Now students are honored who speak, read, and write Armenian, Korean, Russian, Mandarin and Tagalog, or any language a district wishes to recognize. In addition to the Seal of Biliteracy for high school graduates, Californians Together is working with districts to adopt pathway awards designed to encourage preschool, elementary, and middle school students to develop proficiency in English and another language leading to the Seal of Biliteracy. — By Francisco Rodriguez and Leah Sugarman, co-chairs of the CFT English Language Learners Committee

On the Web >To learn more, go to and

going viral

bianca torres

After Paul Karrer’s Letter to President Obama was published by Education Week online, it became an internet phenomenon. The day after it was published, a Google search yielded 14 pages of references to the letter. It was translated into Chinese, Facebooked, blogged, and tweeted “on all sides of the Mississippi to Israel” including by education watchers Diane Ravitch and Linda Darling-Hammond.

Paul Karrer, as seen in this photo by one of his students, teaches fifth grade at Castroville Elementary School and is a member of and negotiator for the North Monterey Federation of Teachers.

Dear President Obama,

prints on it kinda ife in my back, and the kn a s re’ the d an re, he ct. I’m on my knees I mean this with all respe u don’t get it. match yours. I think yo friendly fire. I’m teaching ting the good guys with hit e u’r Yo ys. gu g on wr h graders. That killing the them to tears. They’re fift Your Race to the Top is e lov I r. yea t las ss cla in special I had 32 kids in my retained. Five more were re we y in a barrio in California. the se cau be 11 re , mostly. Six of them we kids because so means they’re 10 years old word “parents” with my the ng usi ed pp sto I . (A re should have been her 30-year-old brother. education, and two mo October. She lives with in d die m mo ’s da een an tw be them. Am th their dads. A few rotate many of them don’t have th their “Grams,” six wi wi e liv s kid en Sev .) thousand blessings on him out as a descriptor. parents. So “parents” is visit a family member. foot in a jail or prison to set ve ha nts de stu my rcent of Here’s the kicker: Fifty pe t. ce of that? I’m afraid no understand the significan , an nc Du ne Ar , on ch ati n’t tea ary of educ pure, raw poverty. We do Do you and your secret rrent state of affairs. It’s cu the to s ng s live in a thi t kid go the t andary. If It’s not bad teaching tha called the ZIP Code Qu It’s s. itie un mm co g lin verty, guess how ch in fai that’s entombed with po in failing schools. We tea de co P ZI a in e liv y the have high scores; if wealthy ZIP code, they they do?

or y. We haven’t had an art Now, we have no mone l. oo sch my at ver Ac no cher tur ft Behind t, We also have massive tea cause of the No Child Le be d An ek. we a ice tw don’t rs. We have a nurse hed brutally when they music teacher in 10 yea ble standards and punis ssi po im to ld e he fac are uld ne ls like mi or else we co struggling public schoo ve to be on grade level, ha nts de stu r ou of nt es ow that 100 perce nt of your policy objectiv meet them. Did you kn have to achieve 100 perce u yo ing say e lik at’s Th agency? oversight by an outside every year. pure, raw poverty. rrent state of affairs. It’s cu the to s ng thi t go t It’s not bad teaching tha sident Obama, I the rest of the world. Pre in e lik are ns itio nd co the so you know what d a test when I taught in You lived in Indonesia, in the third world. We ha se tho to in ak Too are l.) l ful oo my sch it was half swear that conditions in e were supposed to say (W le. dd mi the to ed describe a glass fill Peace Corps. We had to even have the glass! many of my kids don’t stuffed an e of my former students On . od rho bo igh ne the kids, their parents, and favorites has been Next, gangs. Gangs eat my police. Another one of my the by ad de t sho s wa him a local bank and for 10 years and visiting AK47 down his pants at r. I’ve been writing to him be vem No in 27 be ’ll s 13. He a major gangster. incarcerated since he wa Valley State Prison. He’s s ina Sal of n tio sec y rit in the maximum-secu on. They are an excuse schools aren’t the soluti r he uc vo d an ls oo sch we here? Charter rit pay? Anyway, I think Do you get that it’s tough d you want to give us me An . ch mu so us . sed rts mi hu lly You pro nding behind me? It rea not to fix the real issues. knife out while you’re sta the ll pu u yo can d an , really need to talk. Oh Sincerely yours, Paul Karrer

Paul Karrer is a widely published author and is editor of the North Monterey County Federation’s newsletter, Thistle, named in honor of the artichoke capital of California. As a regular contributor to California Teacher, Karrer has written about visiting his former students in prison, among other topics. He reads his work on the Santa Cruz NPR affiliate KUSP, has been published in the Chicken Soup for the Soul series and numerous periodicals. > To read Karrer’s work, go to

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Bob riha, jr

Charter employees choose to have a union and benefits of collective voice Educators who work at charter schools are discovering the benefits of unionization . . . and so are their schools. Union contracts strengthen collegiality, cooperation, respect, and nurture a more innovative educational environment. Collective bargaining becomes the key to improving working conditions and concerns about at-will employment and a lack of job security. Most charters are start-ups or conversions from a regular public school. Some are affiliated with a district or county board of educa-

tion. Some are independent. But all are public schools, receive public funds, and are required to follow statewide testing and accountability requirements. Each of the following unionrepresented charter schools was a startup school with a unique mission, and almost all workers wanted union representation. In all schools, the administrators recognized the union after a majority of workers signed cards saying they wanted one, eliminating the need for a formal election. Here are their stories of empowerment.

Melah Muckelroy

Accelerated School Los Angeles

Leadership Public Schools Richmond

Founded 1994 b Los Angeles Unified School District b Pre-K-12 b 58 teachers United Teachers Los Angeles, Local 1021

Founded 2003 b West Contra Costa Unified School District b Grades 9-12 22 teachers b Leadership Public School Federation of Teachers, Local 6363



ccelerated is a collection of only when their contracts were not four schools founded by two renewed. They had no recourse or Los Angeles Unified teachers. They protection. So, they approached believed they could better serve stuUnited Teachers Los Angeles. dents with an integrated, creative curMuckelroy says a call for just cause riculum that stressed community and in discipline and “solidarity comincluded arts and yoga, according bined with a focused message of to Melah Muckelroy, a sixth caring,” resulted in a solid first grade teacher who helped collective bargaining agreement organize the union and that returned the school to its negotiate the contract. original mission and focus. Job security “But the school evenThe contract granted equity matters tually drifted away from adjustments and a 2.5 perUTLA its original practice of strong cent across-the-board raise. It teacher participation, toward a topalso established a fair and consistent down approach, leaving staff in the evaluation system and grievance prodark on key decisions,” says Muckelroy. cedure, a procedure for layoffs that “Neither parents’ nor teachers’ input considered seniority, and just cause was considered. Cuts were made. We discipline. lost yoga and we started wondering Muckelroy believes union organizwhat the mission was.” ing was one of the best things that Teachers at this South Central happened to the school because it school rated in with different salaforced everyone to reflect, resulting in ries, regardless of experience. Some better practices and policies, now part learned of complaints in their file of a legally binding contract.

Just BeCause


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ictor Aguilera, social studies teacher and local union president, reports that faculty at this school, which aims to prepare traditionally underserved students for college or university, approached CFT because “administration’s expectations kept escalating. We were asked to work during lunch and after school. It became increasingly unclear if this was expected or voluntary, and what the consequences were.” The teachers were concerned over salary disparity and high turnover, and feared job insecurity. Frustration grew because the teachers were ignored whenever they approached administrators to resolve their issues. Though every teacher signed a union card, recognition and contract negotiations took longer than expected, because, recalls Aguilera, administration stalled or would come unprepared to the bargaining table. Agreement was eventually reached.

The teachers are no longer at-will employees. They gained just cause and due process protections and contract language to clarify dutyfree lunch and after school expectations. Additionally, says Aguilera, “the administration can’t just decide to change our health benefits as they’d tried in the past. We must negotiate.” Leadership teachers hope a union contract and elimination of at-will status will alleviate the school’s high teacher turnover and entice them to stay, providing consistency for the school.

Charter law in California California has more charter schools than any other state with 912 currently operating. Last year alone, 115 new charters opened, the largest number of any single year since the charter movement began. Many charters are designed to experiment with pedagogical philosophies, but approaches vary. Governance also varies, but all schools must clearly

mindy pines

Employment security, just cause, and respect are chief concerns

By mindy pines, CFT Reporter

Kayla Meadows

River Oak Charter School Ukiah Founded 1999 b Ukiah Unified School District b K-8 b 11 certificated and 11 classified b Mendocino County Federation of School Employees, Local 4345A


teachers so approached Meadows and other teachers at the private school who were happy to help start River Oak. Eventually, “unsettling personnel issues” led the teachers to organize, explains Meadows, also a member of the CFT Educational Issues Com-

mindy pines

ccording to Kayla Meadows, kindergarten teacher and union negotiator, parents in the Northern California town of Ukiah were concerned about rising tuition at a nearby private Waldorf school. They wanted a charter school with state credentialed and Waldorf-trained

mittee. The administration had fired some teachers without due process. It was particularly disturbing when one “was dismissed over hearsay without any chance to defend himself.” With a union contract in place, the River Oak teachers gained a grievance procedure and due process. They won

sick leave carryover and salary step increases, and are working towards salary and benefit reopeners. “Most important,” says Meadows, “the union united our entire school which is what I think the essence of the union should be.” In that spirit, membership also includes classified employees.

Five Keys Charter School San Francisco Founded 2004 b San Francisco Unified School District b Grades 10-12 b 35 certificated United Educators of San Francisco, Local 61


Victor Aguilera

define their structure, goals, and operating procedures in a charter. Such schools are usually created by a nonprofit or other organization, but some are forprofit. Charters can be authorized by district or county boards of education, or the State Board of Education. If they do not meet the provisions of the charter, it will be revoked.

Charter schools are exempt from most provisions of the Education Code, particularly those laws having to do with employee due process. Employees have the right to unionize under the Educational Employee Relations Act, even though most are unorganized. Lacking this collective voice, educators often have no meaningful say over their wages and working conditions.

an Francisco’s Five Keys Charter School helps county jail inmates and ex-offenders earn a high school diploma by providing classes and access to community-based recovery, parenting and work skills programs. Initiated by long-time Sheriff Michael Hennessey, Five Keys aims to reduce recidivism and improve public safety. According to Dana Rivers, social studies teacher and union negotiator, teachers organized because of eroding working conditions. “We were required to work more hours and split shifts, teach more students, and were subject to other changes at the whim of management. Individuals had ‘secret contracts’ and were forbidden to talk to one another about their pay. “We saw the union as a solution to our problems,” she says. “Other workers in the sheriff ’s department were already organized so there was a union culture around us.”

Though bargaining was sometimes challenging, Rivers says they negotiated a “good, solid agreement.” Teachers gained a grievance process, binding arbitration, pay equity, and a progressive evaluation process, based on professional development and growth. An article on intellectual property grants teachers rights to curriculum they create. “The contract provides a cooperative climate and stability for both administration and staff,” says Rivers. “We’ve come together on the rising cost of healthcare to find solutions. We know how much money we’re going to make; management can plan because its costs are known. “If you want an innovative educational environment,” Rivers asserts, “you must have respect and collegiality where cooperation is the norm. And that is the huge advantage of a union contract.”

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Cynthia Martinez, president of the Compton PTA, opposes parents in favor of the conversion following a press conference.

‘Parent trigger’ misfires AFT educators and families expose false promise of

top: al seib, ©copyright 2010 los angeles times. reprinted with permission.


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classifieds, parents and principals, and held a series of meetings. They came up with eight options, some of which involved school closures.” Willard principal Mario Marcos wrote the worried parents, explaining the budget option process. “No decision has been made regarding closing

fornia Legislature last year. The law says that if more than 50 percent of parents of students in a public school sign a petition, they can decide to fire the principal, bring in an entirely new staff, close the school, or convert it to a charter school. Some prominent Democrats, like

any of our schools in the district,” he emphasized. Parent Revolution then moved its petition drive to McKinley. McKinley has an Academic Performance Index score of 684, one of the lowest in the Compton Unified School District. But it also has a core of families who have sent their children, and now their grandchildren, to the school.

Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, spoke for the bill, although the votes to pass it came mostly from

ted soqui


hen Parent Revolution chose McKinley Elementary School in Compton as the launchpad for its first “parent trigger” campaign, it paid little attention to what parents in the community actually thought. As a result, its petition drive to convert McKinley to a charter school is in legal limbo, and many who signed withdrew their signatures. All this comes despite the group’s goal of “parent empowerment.” On February 22, the Compton Unified School Board denied the petition, saying selection of the charter company was flawed and the district was not able to validate some of the signatures. Last August, Parent Revolution’s paid organizers began visiting mothers and fathers of Compton students. At first, they concentrated on parents at Willard Elementary, telling them the school would be closed. Compton, just south of Los Angeles, is one of California’s poorest cities where most families are African American and Latino. Budget problems here, as in most working class communities, have grown to crisis levels in the current recession. According to Carolyn Richie, president of the Compton Council of Classified Employees, Local 6119, the district faces a potential shortfall of $6.5 million, and last June had to lay off employees. “Because they have to submit a budget to the county office of education for the next three years,” she explains, “the Board of Trustees convened a committee of unions, teachers,

How “parent trigger” became law The “parent trigger” petition is a product of SBX5 4, introduced by former state Senator Gloria Romero and passed in a Special Session of the Cali-

seemed to materialize from thin air.” In fact, the bill came from a group of powerful political figures, backed by some of the nation’s wealthiest corporations and foundations. It was written by the Los Angeles Parents Union, started in 2006 by the Green Dot private charter school company, a group of parents, and political operative Ben Austin. Austin, recently replaced by Gov. Jerry Brown on the State Board of Education, is executive director of Parent Revolution. Austin was an aide in the Clinton White House, and deputy to Los Angeles’ former Republican Mayor Richard Riordan. Parent Revolution began last year as a project of the LA Parents Union, with a $1 million annual budget supplied by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (Microsoft), the Wasserman Foundation, the Eli Broad Foundation (land developers), the Hewlett-Packard Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation (Wal-Mart). The McKinley petition drive was not a grassroots effort. It is the test run for legislation that has been

“We invited everyone [to our forum]. We need more parent involvement. That’s what Parent Revolution promised. But that’s not what they delivered.” — Cynthia Martinez, PTA president at McKinley Elementary Republicans. Mainstream media hailed the law, which the LA Weekly claimed was the product of “minority parents and fierce reformers, who

introduced or already passed in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Mississippi, New Jersey, Indiana and West Virginia, and is on the table in other

david bacon

By David Bacon, CFT Reporter

Compton’s McKinley Elementary fights back when targeted by state’s new parent trigger law ‘empowering parents’ in struggle to save school. changed things. “You can see he’s into the kids. He loves them,” she explains. Garcia discovered later that the petition doesn’t allow parents to consider all four options given in the law, but just one. At the start of two inches of legal language in dense small print at the top of the page, it says it would

Victor Varelas was a key organizer of the petition drive to get parent signatures at the beginning, and then turned against it. Varelas put four children through Compton schools, including McKinley, and now has four grandchildren there.

was never qualified to sign. Macias’ sister, Lilia Buenrostro, has a third-grader, Jonathan, at the school. She works part-time in the cafeteria, ©David Butow/CORBIS SABA

states as well. Newly elected Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, formerly President Obama’s chief of staff, has announced his intention to bring parent trigger legislation to Illinois. The former superintendent of schools in Washington D.C., Michelle Rhee, is establishing a well-funded school takeover group that supports parent trigger petitions, among other initiatives. Rhee led attacks on education unions until she was dumped along with her patron, Mayor Adrian Fenty. Now she lives in California. Signature gatherers deceptive When PR organizers began canvassing McKinley families, Carla Garcia remembers, “a woman named Rosemary” coming to her door. “She said she wanted to make changes to improve and beautify McKinley. There was a place on the form that asked about our concerns, so I signed and circled ‘safety.’ I’ve been worried that the school gates are sometimes left open, and children might wander out, or other people come in.” Garcia’s daughter Ayalett is in Ms. Williams’ first grade class, and Lynette is in Mr. Tellez’ third grade class. She’s had kids at McKinley since 2000, and her oldest is now in eighth grade, getting As and Bs. “They never said this was a petition for a charter school,” Garcia says. “I don’t want that for McKinley.” She says when her children first started to go there, the principal was distant and unconcerned. But current Principal Fleming Robinson has

“transform McKinley Elementary School under the RESTART MODEL, to be reopened under Celerity Educational Group, a Charter Management Organization (CMO).” “When I found out they’d lied to me, I revoked my signature,” Garcia says. “I don’t think Parent Revolution speaks for a lot of McKinley parents, just a few.” Signature gatherers also went to the home of Maricela Macias and got her signature, and later got the signature of Macias’ mother. Macias later revoked her signature, and her mom

and is active in Local 6119. “After work I volunteer at the school from 1 to 2:30,” she says. Buenrostro went to McKinley herself as a child. Her other son, Guillermo, is now in sixth grade at King Middle School, getting straight As, she says, while her daughter Janelle is about to start kindergarten. PR organizers never talked to Buenrostro. “That’s because I’m staff,” she thinks. “I’m not against charter schools. But why don’t they organize one from scratch? I don’t want them to do it at McKinley.” Richie agrees. “I don’t oppose char-

ters either,” she says, noting she has one teenage son in a local charter, and one in traditional public school. “What I don’t like is the process they used to get signatures. I don’t want to see traditional schools become charters, but my main concern is that we have an open process. As a parent myself, I’d be furious if I didn’t have any say.” Parent supporters withdraw support That was exactly the reaction of Victor Varelas, who was a key organizer of the petition drive at the beginning, and then turned against it. Varelas, an Ecuadorian immigrant who was a labor and student activist in his youth, put four children through Compton schools, including McKinley, and now has four grandchildren there. “I think my children got a good education, but I was always very involved as a parent,” he emphasizes. “I went to open house, met with their teachers, and checked my kids’ work. I believe parents have a lot of responsibility for the education of their children, and teachers treated me with respect as a result.” Nevertheless, Varelas believes the school, even under the new principal, doesn’t pay adequate attention to families. He points to the benches in front where parents wait to pick up their students. “Why isn’t there some cover from the sun or rain?” he asks. (Continued on next page)

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david bacon

“From the beginning I asked that parents make all the decisions — that no decision be made without us. But they’d always have these small meetings, where often there were more staff than parents… Other parents began coming to me, asking why they were holding meetings without telling everyone.”

On December 7, Parent Revolution organized a big press event at which the petitions were turned in to the district. When parents began asking for changes in the arrangements, such as doing it inside the school, Executive Director Austin overruled them. “I asked, ‘Why are you giving the orders?’” Varelas says. “I was so angry I left. They said parents would be in control. That was a lie. Parent Revolution is in control.”

‘Parent trigger’ misfires “On street sweeping days they get tickets for parking in front while they walk their kids to class. A $51 fine is a lot for families in this neighborhood. The school promises to do something about it but nothing changes.” That’s not what PR organizers talked about, though. “They said a charter school would get the API up to 800,” he recalls. “665 meant education is bad, they said. 800 meant it’s good. They also told parents that the school would close, at every meeting. Some parents were scared that there’d be no school at all for their children.” After visiting Varelas at home, organizers asked him to come to small meetings, which were by invitation only, where they named him a leader. “From the beginning I asked that parents make all the decisions – that no decision be made without us,” he recalls. That is the promise of parent empowerment that Parent Revolution endorses publicly. “But they’d always have these small meetings, where often there were more staff than parents. I asked to go to all the meetings, but they said maybe later. Other parents began coming to me, asking why they were holding meetings without telling everyone. The staff was always in charge at every meeting, and controlled who was invited.” As Varelas’ questions became more insistent, he says organizers began to isolate him. He told them he had a doctor’s appointment every Tuesday, and meetings were suddenly changed to Tuesday from other weekdays. He told organizers they shouldn’t meet with politicians without parents being involved. Parent Revolution should form a parents’ committee to govern the process, he suggested. “They told me they’d do that later, after the charter was formed,” he says.


Bob riha, jr

(Continued from previous page)

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— Victor Varelas, parent

translations, going on field trips, reading to children — whatever they need me to do.” Reveles doesn’t believe a charter school would offer her the same degree of input she has now. “Parent Revolution never approached me, or I would have told them.” The organization set up a table outside the school on the verification days, urging parents to boycott the process. Later Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Robert O’Brien granted

“I don’t want to see traditional schools become charters, but my main concern is that we have an open process. As a parent myself, I’d be furious if I didn’t have any say.” — Carolyn Richie, President, Compton Council of Classified Employees

Judge rules against verification Petitions were submitted, allegedly from parents of 256 of McKinley’s 415 students. From the beginning, questions swirled around the signatures and the way they were gathered. On January 19, district human relations officer Alejandro Flores sent a letter to every parent who’d signed, asking them to come to the school on January 26 or 27 to verify their signatures. A little over 50 came. One parent, Juana Reveles, says she never even signed a petition, but got a letter nevertheless. Reveles and her three sisters all have kids in Compton schools, and went to McKinley as children. She’s been a school volunteer since 1996, “doing

a stay of three weeks in the verification process, saying he would come up with a new one. Flores’ letter was criticized strongly by PR and its allies. Spanish-language media focused attention on its requirement that parents show a drivers’ license or photo identification to validate their signatures. Progressive activists said it could make undocumented parents worry their immigration status might be questioned. Richie says she and administrators negotiate with mutual respect. She worries about Celerity, the private charter company named in the petition. While its bylaws state “employees may join and be represented” by unions (a right guaranteed by state and federal law),

another section says that job duties, discipline “and all other work basis will be negotiated in individual at will agreements.” This allows employers to terminate employees or change their conditions “at will.” Celerity has been growing quickly, more than doubling its revenue in the prior two years. It operates four schools with about 1600 students, and has filed applications to open others. McKinley PTA questions process Cynthia Martinez, McKinley’s PTA president, thinks the school should be given a chance to improve before handing it over to Celerity. “The educational level is not where it should be, but it’s gone up over the last two years,” she believes, and credits the change to Principal Robinson. “I see him playing soccer and basketball with the kids, and at the same time he’s strict with them. He asks teachers to improve their abilities too. A school isn’t something you can change from one day to another.” Like many others, she knows its history well. Two sons went through McKinley already. One, Martinez says, had a special education teacher who she believes really helped him. “I know Celerity says they have one too, but how do I know he or she would be as good?” she wonders. When PR organizers came to her home, Martinez says they claimed they were volunteers at McKinley. “When I told them I’d never seen them there, they said they were actually volunteers at some other school. But how can you trust their claims when they start off telling lies to get signatures?” Martinez and others from the school’s parent center organized a forum “so that they could ask questions,” she says. “We invited everyone. We need more parent involvement. That’s what Parent Revolution promised. But that’s not what they delivered.” <<

Oakland AFT president Ana Turetsky talks with Asembly Speaker John Perez.

CFT members meet the California Legislature To get to know members of the new California Legislature, and renew acquaintances with longer term legislators, the CFT held an informal reception at the state Capitol on January 24. “The union provides us this

photos: steve yeater

Governor Brown is surprise guest at Capitol reception

Los Rios members with Assembl yman Paul Fong, second from right, a San Jose AFT member.

, Assemblyman Gil Lobbyist Lynne Faulks, left ret Shelleda – online. Cedillo and CFT’s Marga

opportunity to have an informal conversation with our state representatives,” said Ana Turetsky, president of the Oakland AFT. “It’s great for them to get know us, so when we follow up, they recognize us.” Nearly 40 union members attended, and about the same number of legislators and Capitol staffers. The surprise

Gov. Brown talked with members, left to right, CFT President Marty Hittelman, Paula Bauer from the Galt Federation, and Alisa Messer, president of the San Francisco College Federation.

Oakland resident, she’s known Brown for a long time and has had many conversations with him about education issues in Oakland. First-time attendee Alisa Messer, president of the San Francisco Community College Federation, said the

guest of the evening was Gov. Jerry Brown, who not only dropped by, but stayed and talked with members. The reception proved to be “a comfortable place to catch up with Brown on statewide issues” Turetsky said, “and to offer some quick input.” As an

reception was a great opportunity to connect with legislators she wouldn’t normally meet or visit because they aren’t in her home district. Most of them, she said, seemed willing to hear about community college students and how the proposed budget would impact education. “I was especially pleased to meet Gil Cedillo,” Messer said, “because I got to personally thank him, both for me and for many of the students I work with for all he’s done on their behalf, including reintroducing the California DREAM Act.” The union helps provide access to our legislators, Turetsky says, and it’s nice to “be in this social environment with our lawmakers.”

The CFT Leadership Conference offered leaders and staff an opportunity to refresh their knowledge of collective bargaining and learn the nuts and bolts of running a union. In the largest attendance yet, more than 250 local officers and staffers attended the event held February 7-8 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Burlingame. Legal updates were a major attraction. Attendees caught up on recent rulings and asked questions of the attorneys who work with CFT. There were sessions for public and private sector employees, and breakouts for each educational division of the union. In another general session, Susan

Sachen from the California Labor Federation talked about labor’s field campaign in the November election. She outlined the components that yielded a clean sweep in state offices for Federation-endorsed candidates — the only one of its kind in the country. Jonathan Kaplan from the California Budget Project skillfully interpreted the grim fiscal picture facing newly elected Gov. Jerry Brown and the state Legislature. Other helpful workshops dealt with analyzing district budgets, holding union elections, planning social media campaigns, and managing the union’s finances.

jane hundertmark

Leadership Conference teaches how-to’s of running the union

Solomon Narala, treasurer of the Cerritos College Faculty Federation, learns about union finance.

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A police officer and others with broken bodies of Triangle workers at their feet, look up in shock at workers poised to jump from upper floors.

Coalitions honor the March 25 centennial of the devastating Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire

Senseless deaths of 146 garment factory workers shape modern workplace safety Firefighters struggle to extinguish the burning Asch Building. Sprinklers were considered too costly by many factory owners and were not installed.

photos: International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union Archives, Kheel Center, Cornell University

An eyewitness account Louis Waldman, later to become a New York state assemblyman, described the grim scene in his 1944 memoirs: The Asch Building at the corner of Washington Place and Greene Street was ablaze. When we arrived at the scene, the police had thrown up a cordon around the area and the firemen were helplessly fighting the blaze. The eighth, ninth, and tenth stories of the building were now an enormous roaring cornice of flames. Word had spread through the East Side, by some magic of terror, that the plant of the Triangle Waist Company was on fire and that several hundred workers were trapped. Horrified and helpless, the crowds — I among them — looked up at the burning building, saw girl after girl appear at the reddened windows, pause for a terrified moment, and then leap to the pavement below, to land as mangled, bloody pulp. This went on for what seemed a ghastly eternity. Occasionally a girl who had hesitated too long was licked by pursuing flames and, screaming with clothing and hair ablaze, plunged like a living torch to the street. Life nets held by the firemen were torn by the impact of the falling bodies. The emotions of the crowd were indescribable. Women were hysterical, scores fainted; men wept as, in paroxysms of frenzy, they hurled themselves against the police lines.


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s workers in New York City were preparing to go home late in the afternoon of March 25, 1911, fire struck the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. The bosses had locked the doors to keep the workers inside and union organizers out. Fire escapes did not reach the upper floors that housed the factory. Within 18 minutes, 146 immigrant workers — mostly Jewish and Italian women — were dead. Many had jumped to the street below, rather than be burned alive. The tragedy was one of the worst industrial disasters in U.S. history and it galvanized popular support for workplace safety. More than 350,000 mourners marched through the streets of New York with another 250,000 lining the sidewalks. Though Tammany Hall politicians shielded the owners from responsibility, the horror of what had happened at the Triangle helped build the modern American labor movement. Now, 100 years later, the working conditions of many garment workers and others in the United States and around the world are still below basic health and safety standards. In December, a garment factory fire in Bangladesh killed 27 young women. Recognizing the importance of the Triangle Factory fire, groups across the nation are planning events includ-

Sewing machine operators, mostly women, work at long, paired tables overseen by managers. Work baskets fill the space between chairs and scraps clutter the floor around their feet.

ing marches, rallies, art exhibits, and performances. A new documentary aired February 28 on PBS (watch for rebroadcasts) and a second airs March 21 on HBO. In California, two coalitions are coordinating activities in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The Los Angeles County Federation of Labor and the San Francisco Labor Council have endorsed the commemoration. Delegates to CFT Convention this month will have an opportunity to join in support with other organizations. In addition to the Triangle fire cen-

tennial, this year marks two more significant anniversaries. March 8 marked the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, and October 10 will mark 100 years since the granting of women’s suffrage in California. These commemorations help connect the battles of the past with today’s struggles by workers, immigrants, and women. In the face of attacks on unions and public sector workers, solidarity with our brothers and sisters worldwide is essential. — By Andy Griggs, United Teachers Los Angeles-Retired

On the Web In Southern California, find events coordinated by LA Laborfest at In the Bay Area, find events coordinated by San Francisco Laborfest at Remember the Triangle Fire Coalition is coordinating New York events and has links to many historical resources. Cornell University’s Kheel Center is the premier resource, with a listing of fire victims,

interviews with survivors, tips for student research, and a timeline of events before and after the fire. AFL-CIO connects the Triangle fire, the Uprising of the 20,000, and the movement afterwards for workplace reform. aboutus/history/history/uprising_fire.cfm SweatFree Communities deals with current day sweatshops, locally and internationally, and offers teaching resources.

Ruth Molina, a teacher from the Early Childhood Federation, loves union work!

Around CFT Convention being held March 18-20 in Manhattan Beach will vote on a range of policies to help guide the Federation in the coming year and will elect new union leaders. The convention is the Federation’s highest policy-making body, where delegates have a direct hand in union elections and shaping union positions on issues affecting our members. This year’s convention will elect the president, secretary treasurer, and 24 vice presidents. Convention also provides inspira-

to learn what other unions are doing to protect and promote the interests of educators. Delegates will have the opportunity to attend workshops on professional and union issues, as well as numerous award presentations. Delegates will also hear speeches from political office holders including state Senator Loni Hancock and Congresswoman Judy Chu. >To learn more and download the convention schedule, go to

Want to teach your students about unions and labor history? The CFT Labor in the Schools Committee has produced curricula for students in all divisions of education, from preschool coloring books to college and university readings. The newest additions are materials for elementary school teachers, including “Trouble in the Hen House,” a puppet show about hens organizing against a mean farmer, and “I, Tomato,” chronicling the life of a tomato (from the point of view of the tomato!). Visit the CFT Web site to check out the broad range of teaching materials available. >You can download materials for free, or order them online, by visiting

Union lobby days: A chance to speak with your state lawmakers There are four opportunities to meet with your legislators one-on-one in the State Capitol to talk about workplace issues and lobby for passage of important CFT-sponsored bills. First up, is the California Labor Federation Lobby Day on March 21, where members from labor unions throughout California address issues important to labor. The next day, March 22, CFT is hosting its own CFT

Lobby Day to lobby issues specific to educators and their local unions. >To learn more, phone the CFT Sacramento office at 916-446-2788, email, or go to and click on Legislative. On March 29, the CFT Council of Classified Employees is hosting its second lobby day at the State Capitol. Earlier this year, on January 24, nearly 20 classified members of CFT

lobbied state legislators on issues of import to support staff in California schools and colleges. To learn more, email council president Velma Butler at And on April 25, the CFT EC/K12 Council is holding a lobby day for early childhood and K-12 members of the union. >For information, email Gary Ravani, president of the council, at

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California Federation of Teachers

Mark your Calendar Stand up for the community colleges on March 14 at the State Capitol in the March for March 2011. The CFT Convention is being held March 18-20 at the Manhattan Beach Marriott. Go to for information. (See story at left) Head to Sacramento for the California Labor Federation Lobby Day on March 21 and CFT Lobby Day the next day March 22. (See story at left) The annual Paraprofessional and School-Related Personnel Conference hosted by AFT will be held March 24-27 at the Flamingo Hotel in Las Vegas. There is also a preconference health and safety training. To learn more, go to Classified Lobby Day is being hosted by the CFT Council of Classified Employees March 29 at the Capitol. Honor Cesar. Plan a lesson for Cesar Chavez Day on March 31. AFT is hosting a Public Employees and Healthcare Joint Conference from March 31-April 2 at Harrah’s in Las Vegas. Learn more at The AFT Higher Education Conference will be held April 1-3 in Philadelphia at the Sheraton Philadelphia City Center. Go to Standing Committees of the CFT meet Saturday, April 9 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Burlingame near the San Francisco Airport. The AFT Lawyers’ Conference will be held April 13-15 at the Hilton New York. Learn more at The EC/K-12 Council Lobby Day is April 25 at the State Capitol in Sacramento. Division Councils for the K-12, classified and community colleges meet May 13 at the Crowne Plaza in Burlingame near the San Francisco Airport. State Council, where delegates from local unions decide issues before CFT, meets the next day on May 14 at the Burlingame Crowne Plaza.

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top: Jane Hundertmark

CFT Convention delegates to elect new officers Check out the union’s top-notch labor Delegates to the CFT tion, information, and the opportunity curricula online


Joanne Waddell, president of the Los Angeles Faculty Guild, meets the governor she helped elect.

Community College Speech instructor Sharon Hendricks runs for CalSTRS Board Outgoing board member Carolyn Widener reflects on the system and coming election


mentored Hendricks, and has been impressed by her long-time activism in retirement issues. Hendricks has been attending CalSTRS client advisory meetings for over a year representing Local 1521. At these meetings, constituent groups are briefed by the CalSTRS staff and “in the process become very knowledgeable.” Hendricks has worked one-on-one

Widener says Hendricks’ experience in both systems would benefit the board. The CalSTRS system was designed around K-12 teachers working full-time and, she explained, college part-timers “have the hardest time getting vested, have the hardest time getting service credit, and receive the lowest benefits.” Hendricks wants to educate memBob riha, jr

changes on the board of the nation’s second largest public pension fund come as teachers and other public employees are under attack nationwide and their pension plans, heavily impacted by the financial meltdown, are also threatened politically. Carolyn Widener, retiring from a long career as an English teacher, is vacating her seat as the community college representative on the board of the California State Teachers Retirement System. Widener, who has held the seat since 2001, is supporting Sharon Hendricks, a fellow member of the Los Angeles College Faculty Guild, Local 1521, to succeed her in October when most community college faculty will be voting for their representative on the board. For the last year, Widener has carl friedlander council president

Lessons from Wisconsin

top: Steve yeater

The war in Wisconsin and escalating battles in other states prove that political assaults are far more dangerous than fiscal crises, though the latter creates fertile ground for the former. California’s financial problems dwarf those of many states where the right is ferociously attacking labor, yet here, despite a $25 billion problem, reason and compromise may prevail. Had CFT and the broader labor movement failed to do what it took to elect Jerry Brown, we’d be facing attacks similar to those faced by our brothers and sisters in Madison, where the fiscal problems are minor compared to California’s. California labor still faces grave threats. But with a combination of brains and brawn, we can address these challenges and still grow and thrive as a movement. In the community colleges, we need both to understand that the status quo must change — and how — and mobilize our vast system to defend our core mission.


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Sharon Hendricks, a retirement issues activist and speech pathology instructor at Los Angeles City College, hopes to win the community college seat on the CalSTRS Board.

with members to combat the myths trafficked by pension opponents, as retirement liaison for Local 1521 for three years and on the retirement committee of the Faculty Association of California Community Colleges. She was also a part-timer for her first semester of teaching speech and language pathology in the community colleges. Before joining the speech department at Los Angeles City College, Hendricks spent several years as a speech pathologist with the city’s K-12 schools. As a result, she says she understands adjunct retirement issues, as well as those of fulltimers and K-12 teachers.

bers about the unfunded liability at CalSTRS, a product of the world recession. The system’s funding level dipped from 87 percent as of June 2008 to 78 percent by June 2009. Investments in the pension fund’s portfolio did well for the year ending in December, posting a 12.7 per-

cent positive return, but the three-year return is still a negative 3.2 percent. Widener also pointed to Illinois, where the SEC has charged officials with failing to make the required plan contributions and instead using a complex accounting ploy. California does not use this accounting method, and Moody’s, the rating firm, has said California is in better shape than many states because it has been making larger deposits in its pension funds over time. However, Widener noted that in 10 out of 11 ballot measures in California last year, public pensions were degraded. Only San Francisco defeated its measure. Given that the states have just weathered a huge economic blow, Widener explained, “If you look at a pension in only a one- or two-year framework, then you have a crisis. Pension funds need to look at their portfolios on a 20- or 30-year basis.” California Treasurer Bill Lockyer, who holds an ex-officio seat on the boards of both CalSTRS and CalPERS, agrees. “They’ve confused the near-term budget shortfalls with the long-term funding obligations, and grossly inflated the size of the longterm liabilities.” Widener believes Sharon Hendricks is well prepared for the challenging landscape of public pension plans. The challenge for unions, she concludes, is not just to protect their own retirement security, but to help protect the retirement security of all working Americans. — By Malcolm Terence, CFT Reporter

About voting in the CalSTRS Board election This fall, active community college participants in the CalSTRS defined benefit and cash balance plans will receive a ballot from CalSTRS. Though a majority of the eligible voters are members of CFT local unions, nearly 30 percent of part-timers are served by other pension plans and will not be voting in the CalSTRS election. K-12 teachers will also vote to fill two board seats, one that will be filled by a K-12 teacher and one by a K-12 teacher or administrator.

A message from Wisconsin…

University UC-AFT wins reinstatement of UCLA social welfare lecturer Larthia Dunham thought he was receiving merit evaluations, perhaps headed for a raise, until he realized he was being targeted for termination. A lecturer in the Social Welfare Department at UCLA, Dunham was cited in December 2008 for failure to try to improve his writing skills and for bad evaluations from some students. With emotions roiling, he sat down during the holiday season that year and wrote 60 letters to colleagues asking for support. “Blessfully” (Dunham is a religious man), he received 50 responses. He dug out a document — the UC Memorandum of Understanding with Non-Senate Faculty — the contract between lecturers in UC-AFT and the university, that he had kept for years unexamined in his desk. “I teach students all the time,” Dunham chuckled, “know the policies that govern you.” He met with Maria Elena Cortez, then the UC-AFT field representative at UCLA, and they went through an administration memo alleging Dunham’s shortcomings. Cortez urged him to document “everything they’re saying you didn’t do.”

Bob riha, jr

Arbitrator requires university to restore seniority rights and pay back wages

With the help of his union, Larthia Dunham, a lecturer in the Social Welfare Department at UCLA, won back his job, his seniority rights, and retroactive pay.

retirement. In May 2010, he started a part-time job as a therapist. During his absence from UCLA, he spurned an administration offer of monetary settlement after being terminated. Following advice from his children, “I was going to fight all the way,” said Dunham, who is 55 years

The win for Dunham was a victory for all lecturers… because “it reinforced the thoroughness of due process in the current contract of non-Senate faculty,” with the University of California. — Maria Elena Cortez, Executive Director, UC-AFT

Then Dunham and his wife Senait, who is a doctoral candidate at UC Santa Barbara, went to Houston for the holidays. His mother’s house had no Internet connection, so Dunham remembers driving along the interstate and turning into truck stops to access the Internet. It was, temporarily, for naught. UCLA terminated him, effective July 31, 2009. Afterward, he put in for

old with six children and another one on the way. “I never felt in my heart that I was going to lose because I felt that I was right.” In describing his principled stand that resulted in the restoration of his job, Dunham paraphrased Martin Luther King. “‘If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything.’ They were trying to say, ‘shoo shoo.’” Rather than be shooed, Dunham

due process … on the grounds of academic performance has not been adhered to.” Interviewed in mid-February, Dunham was back at work, preparing to teach a second-year class, “Community Organization and Advocacy.” He is not yet supervising student field internships, which is part of the job he has successfully performed since 1995, but he might transition into some oversight as the spring quarter gets rolling. Dunham is comfortable being back. In telling the story of his job restoration to department colleagues who wondered where he had gone, Dunham expresses his appreciation for the union. “The union works,” says Dunham. “They definitely fight for you.” — By Lance Howland, CFT Reporter

stood his ground and was vindicated by an arbitrator’s January 16 decision that reinstated him as a field liaison with teaching responsibilities in the Department of Social Welfare. Arbitrator Kenneth Perea ordered the university to pay retroactive wages and restore Dunham’s seniority rights and other contractual benefits from his 2009 termination until his reinstatement in January 2011. The win for Dunham was a victory for all lecturers, also known as nonSenate faculty, because “it reinforced the thoroughness of due process in the current contract of non-Senate faculty,” with the University of California, said Cortez, now executive director of the University Council-AFT. “The contract protects people, especially in the long term, against arbitrary personnel actions by department managers.” The arbitrator’s decision said the administration was holding merit hearings for Dunham and did not inform him of the termination threat. The impartial arbitrator concluded “an essential element of procedural

bob Samuels council president


A growth model for UC A recent Los Angeles Times editorial argued that the solution to UC’s budget problems is to reduce enrollments, but this would not only limit access when it is most needed, it would also hurt the funding of the entire system. Currently, undergraduate tuition is the only stable source of funding for the system, and the revenue generated by in-state and nonresident students subsidizes research, administration, and most other UC activities. The university receives on average $23,000 from each undergraduate student (this includes state and student revenue) but only spends $8,000 on direct instructional costs. In other words, the university will generate more income if it enrolls more students. By increasing the number of international students and maintaining the level of resident enrollees, the UC could bring in hundreds of millions of dollars, while it supports the goals of access, affordability, and excellence.

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You are the union…

Locals 1521, 1521A, 1021

rosemary lee

UTLA members on the steps of the state Capitol — of Wisconsin.

LOCAL 6319

Job Corps workers persevere… After more than a year of negotiations, the workers at Treasure Island Job Corps Center won their first contract — again. Job Corps is a federal program that provides job training and placement for at-risk youth. CFT organized the 160 workers at the San Francisco-based center in 2005, but in 2009, the U.S. Department of Labor awarded operation of the center to a new contractor. While the new operator had to recognize the union, it was not bound by the union’s contract. Workers were forced to start bargaining anew. Private sector labor law is so weak that UC-AFT

Two negotiations starting… Maria Elena Cortez has hit the ground running with two series of negotiations underway with the University of California. Cortez, formerly field representative for 2 ½ years for the UCLA local, started January 1 as executive director of the University Council-AFT, the division of CFT that represents librarians and non-Senate faculty (also called lecturers) at 10 campuses in the UC system.


C a l i f o r n i a t e a c h e r f e b r u a ry / m a r c h 2 0 11

L.A. flies support to Madison…Ten CFT members joined the Los Angeles County Federation of Labor in its efforts to show support for Wisconsin’s union workers. Local unions donated funds to charter the plane that on February 23 carried 160 members, representing 40 unions, on an overnight trip to Madison. Many slept in the state Capitol. The protest was so well organized that each L.A. union member was given a task upon arrival. According to CFT Vice President Betty Forrester, unions had set up logistical support —food, coffee, and picketing — outside the Capitol. Inside, student protesters regulated the flow of demonstrators, drums and music, microphones, lost and found, drugstore needs, the sleeping-over process, and the steady donations of food and drink. “We continously heard, ‘Sanitize your hands before you go to the food tables,’” Forrester reported. Mercedes Gaitain, a classified employee in the L.A. colleges, took on and relished the job of dispensing sanitary hand wipes to each person taking a piece of pizza. Those who made the trek… from United Teachers Los Angeles: Betty Forrester, John Akeson, Megan Boyd, Lisa Karahalios, Rosemary Lee, and Marc Rich. From the Los Angeles College Faculty Guild: Joanne Waddell, Alice Taylor. From the AFT College Staff Guild: Joaquin and Mercedes Gaitan.

increasing membership and participation to become even stronger for negotiations next year. “With more people behind us,” says Emily Rapaport, career transition specialist and local president, “we can win even more.”

employers often find ways to delay reaching agreement for years or to avoid agreement altogether. But in December, the Treasure Island Job Corps Workers’ Union won its long-awaited contract. It includes essential job protections of just cause discipline and binding arbitration, as well as a retroactive merit increase and provisions that will help strengthen the union in the future, including a trigger for union shop. Workers defeated proposals to take away their right to bargain changes in wages, benefits, working conditions, and their ability to organize actions around workplace issues. Now Local 6319 is focused on “We’re trying to be a part of deciding how the money is spent,” said Cortez. “We are committed to getting the budget to be transparent, and for Maria Elena Cortez all employees at UC to participate in how decisions are made.” UC-AFT represents about 4,000 members systemwide — a number that fluctuates with academic appointments campus by campus.

LOCAL 3267

bob riha, jr

Local Wire

Reporting Local Action Around the State

Getting kindergarten ready… Following last year’s passage of the Kindergarten Readiness Act, SB 1381, members of Jefferson Elementary Federation of Teachers started planning for preschool expansion in their district. Currently there are only four state preschool classrooms to serve 104,000 residents in Daly City. Elaine Francisco, a member of the CFT Early Childhood Education Committee, explained the expansion opportunity created in SB 1381 to the school board. Children who are not five years old by the new state cutoff date will be eligible for “transitional kindergarten” to help them prepare and succeed in kindergarten and beyond. California currently requires kindergarteners to be five by December 2 of the school year, one of the nation’s latest cutoff dates. SB 1381 moves the cutoff to September 1, phasing in the change one month at a time over three years, beginning fall 2012.

Rank & Files Jim Mahler, president of the AFT Guild, Local 1931, representing educators in the San Diego and GrossmontCuyamaca Community College Districts, and CFT vice president, will be honored as Labor Leader of the Year by the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council on March 19. Mahler has led efforts to organize faculty and classified employees into the union, and built a highly successful political action program.

Marty Hittelman, CFT president, and Gregg Solkovits, secondary vice president of United Teachers Los Angeles, Local 1021, were named to the Transition Advisory Team for State Superintendent of Schools Tom Torlakson. The bipartisan team will provide strategic advice during Torlakson’s first few months in office.

Jane Stockly, an adjunct instructor who teaches parent education in the noncredit division at Glendale College, and a member of the Glendale College Guild, Local 2276, has just published Better Baby Sleep: A Handbook for Parents. The book offers information on the dynamics of infant sleep along with practical advice on how to encourage babies to learn to sleep through the night.

Jim Miller, an instructor at San Diego City, and vice president of political action for the AFT Guild, Local 1931, is a finalist in AFT’s annual contest to honor “everyday heroes.” Miller was one of six people who marched 48 days from Bakersfield to Sacramento in last year’s CFT-sponsored March for California’s Future. Cast your vote for Jim at

Elaine Merriweather, an early childhood teacher, treasurer of United Educators of San Francisco, Local 61, and CFT vice president, was elected to the school board in the East Bay city of Richmond where she has been a long-time parent advocate. She ran on a platform of closing the achievement gap, improving school safety, and increasing transparency. Have you or your colleagues made news lately? Email the pertinent facts to the editor at

California Teacher, February - March 2011  

When charters go union schools and educators win

California Teacher, February - March 2011  

When charters go union schools and educators win