Volume 43, Number 2 March 2012 Community College Council of the California Federation of Teachers American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO
Not everything is quantifiable Isabelle Saber has gone from refugee to college instructor to union leader. She’s also a mathematician who believes that not everything is quantifiable.
San Diego labor history recalled Thanks to the AFT Guild in San Diego, the city council remembers that one hundred years ago it didn’t behave very well toward the IWW, and apologizes for repressing the free speech rights of union activists.
Peralta fights interest rate swap Morgan Stanley is taken to task by the Peralta Federation of Teachers for gouging the Oakland-based college district with a toxic interest rate derivative swap.
California Federation of Teachers 1201 Marina Village Parkway, Suite 115 Alameda, CA 94501
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Marching for education
Occupying Education Page 5
P E R S P E C TI V E March 2012
Taking the lead Carl Friedlander, CFT Community College Council President
The Santa Monica College plan: access for whom?
arch 14 was a big news day for us. First there was the surprise announcement that Governor Brown and CFT leaders had reached tentative agreement on a single progressive tax measure for the Nov. 6, 2012, state ballot. Then came the stunning and, for most of us, infuriating announcement by Santa Monica College that, beginning Summer 2012, the college would be instituting a new two-tier course pricing system where students who couldn’t find space in regular classes but could come up with $200/unit would be offered the opportunity to enroll in special classes on a new high fee track (while those who couldn’t come up with the money would still be locked out). SMC describes this as a “partial” solution to the problem of drastic class cuts and shrunken access: provide special access for a high price to those with means.
A toll lane for students There are plenty of families with substantial means in SMC’s part of L.A. County, and this newest educational toll lane or “Lexus lane” proposal is likely to have significant support from well-to-do Santa Monica families. But that doesn’t justify its creation. Neither do claims that there may be some financial aid available to help lower income students get into the toll lane. Two days after the LA Times published the story about SMC’s plans, the paper reported that a wealthy Santa Monica couple had donated $250,000 to support scholarships for students who needed but couldn’t afford the high fee classes. But an editorial in the same day’s edition argued correctly that, “if private donors step forward, Santa Monica College should use their money to fund classes at the regular price.” Some SMC managers argue that the new high fee classes are justified because they allow community colleges to provide
The California Federation of Teachers is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, AFL-CIO. The CFT represents over 120,000 educational employees working at every level of education in California. 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. President Joshua Pechthalt
better education at a lower price than for-profit colleges even with $200/unit fees. This is a bogus argument. The abuses of for-profit colleges must be addressed through regulation, not by adding “doing a better job than for-profits” to the mission of California’s community colleges.
Two tier system illegal The two-tier fee system is illegal in California community colleges. A year ago SMC tried to change the law through AB 515 (Brownley), but the bill was held in the Senate Education Committee. So this year, the incorrigibly “creative” managers at SMC decided they would do an end run around the law by creating a non-profit foundation, legally separate from the college, to oversee the program. It’s technically the foundation, not the college, that will be offering the high fee classes. It’s hard to imagine how a non-profit foundation separate from the college could legally offer SMC credit classes for high fees, using SMC’s accreditation to do so. So stay tuned as we fight this on legal, regulatory and political fronts. SMC maintains that it needs to create the new high fee track because shrinking state revenue makes it impossible to serve all the students seeking to enroll. But during the debate on AB 515 in the Senate Education Committee last year, when asked about SMC’s course scheduling priorities, a college trustee and the SMC president were adamant about the importance of protecting SMC’s extensive Emeritus College, which offers no-cost statefunded non-credit classes to thousands of senior citizens. As a senior citizen myself, I appreciate that the Emeritus College provides a valuable service to the community. But is it more important than opening up additional sections of English, math and other classes for younger students struggling to earn
Secretary-Treasurer Jeff Freitas
It’s hard to imagine how a non-profit foundation separate from the college could legally offer SMC credit classes for high fees, using SMC’s accreditation to do so. So stay tuned as we fight this on legal, regulatory and political fronts. degrees and certificates or gain skills that will help them establish and advance their careers and support themselves and their families? Throughout the long debates on the recommendations of the Student Success Task Force, State Chancellor Jack Scott has reiterated over and over again his view that “ceramics for seniors,” though very worthwhile, is a low priority for drastically underfunded community colleges that are cutting class offerings and thus undermining the educational dreams of hundreds of thousands of students across California.
SMC proposal no solution at all I’m not suggesting that SMC could meet student demand by shifting resources from noncredit classes for older learners to core classes in the credit
program. Course offerings at SMC and almost everywhere are inadequate no matter how well resources are managed. The budget cuts have been horrendous, and every community college in the state is struggling to cope. But the elitist “partial solution” proposed by SMC leaders is no solution at all. California’s community colleges promote educational opportunity for all. There are no institutions anywhere more democratic. Community colleges must help close the “achievement gap,” not widen it. That’s why the idea of high fee, self-supporting classes for the well-to-do is anathema, and why we must and will fight it in the Chancellor’s Office, the legislature, the courts, the SMC boardroom, and anywhere else where it rears its ugly head.
Mark Your 2012 Calendar April 13-15
CFT Convention, The Fairmont, San Jose
April 25-24 Lobby Days, Citizen Hotel, Saramento April 28
CFT Committee meetings, L.A. Valley College, Los Angeles
CFT Executive Council, CFT Office, Burbank
CFT Division Councils, Hilton Oakland Airport CFT State Council
Perspective is published three times during the academic year by CFT’s Community College Council. Community College Council President Carl Friedlander Los Angeles College Guild, Local 1521 3356 Barham Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90068 Email email@example.com Direct inquiries regarding the Community College Council to Carl Friedlander Southern Vice President Jim Mahler AFT Guild, San Diego and GrossmontCuyamaca Community Colleges, Local 1931 3737 Camino del Rio South, Suite 410 United Labor Center Bldg. San Diego, CA 92108 Northern Vice President Dean Murakami Los Rios College Federation of Teachers AFT Local 2279 1127 – 11th Street, #806 Sacramento, CA 95814 Secretary Kathy Holland Los Angeles College Guild, Local 1521, 3356 Barham Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90068 Editor Fred Glass Layout Design Action Collective EDITORIAL SUBMISSIONS Direct editorial submissions to: Editor, Community College Perspective. California Federation of Teachers 1201 Marina Village Parkway, Suite 115 Alameda, CA 94501 Telephone 510-523-5238 Fax 510-523-5262 Email firstname.lastname@example.org Web www.cft.org To Advertise Contact the CFT Secretary-Treasurer for a current rate card and advertising policies. Jeff Freitas, Secretary-Treasurer California Federation of Teachers 2550 North Hollywood Way, Ste. 400 Burbank, CA 91505 Telephone 818-843-8226 Fax 818-843-4662 Email email@example.com
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June 27-30 AFT Convention, Cobo Center, Detroit MI
Cover: UC graduate student union leader Charlie Eaton gives out with a “mic check” to bring the March 5 crowd into the Capitol rotunda for a Wisconsin-style occupation following the rally for education funding. Fred glass photo
March 2012 P E R S P E C TIVE
David Yamamoto photo
Glendale Community College’s Isabelle Saber
“We have a big fight ahead”
grew up in a family that believed in justice and service. I understand what the lack of justice and service means,” says Isabelle Saber, the new president of the Glendale College Guild, AFT Local 2276. “The driving force in my life today is to see that people are protected, and that we have a system in which they can live with respect.” Brave words. But considering the history of her family, ones that reflect the reality in which she grew up. These words connect the lessons of that experience to her work as a teacher and union leader today. Isabelle Saber grew up in the huge megalopolis Tehran, capital of Iran. Her mother, an Armenian Christian, was an immigrant, carried out of Russia when she was barely a year old, who then married a Muslim man. Isabelle’s father was an engineer, and under the Shah rose to become the head of the country’s railways. That didn’t make him a conservative member of the elite, however. He even taught classes in Marxism, a dangerous activity that, under the Shah’s brutal regime, embroiled him in trouble. Although he was never an activist, Saber recalls, the family followed the country’s political turmoil closely. “Basically, my dad was an advocate for the little guy.” Saber was only twelve when her life changed completely. The Shah was overthrown, but a conservative theocracy took its place. “My father had great difficulty working under that regime, so he took his pension and retired.” Meanwhile her mother went on working as an aide in the foreign embassies located in Tehran. At the time, Saber was attending the city’s French school. “My mother felt a great loyalty to it, and even became a Francophile,” Saber says. “When she arrived in Iran as a baby, after her father had been killed by Stalin, she had no passport or ID. After she was old enough to go to school, the only one that would accept her was the French school.”
Increasingly dangerous life Life for Isabelle, however, became dangerous. “All girls and women had to cover their heads with scarves, and there was a dress code,” she remembers. “Revolutionary Guards patrolled the city, and would accost women if they even had a strand of hair showing. I never had to wear the chador (the full length garment that covers a woman from head to toe,
including the face), but I had to cover up my whole body so that only the skin of my hands and face was showing. Until I was 18, I learned never to walk anywhere by myself, since the Guards or people like them might attack me, something that happened to a few of my classmates.” When she graduated from the French school, her parents sent her to Paris to study engineering, where she took classes at the Sorbonne. In Iran, however, life became increasingly dangerous for her family. Her mother had a job as a confidential administrative assistant in the Algerian embassy. At the time Algeria served as an intermediary between the Iranian regime and the U.S., which had broken off diplomatic relations. “My mother was arrested,” Saber recounts. “They said her marriage to my father was illegal and null for religious reasons. In Iran at that time, women could be stoned to death for adultery, so this charge was very serious. Then they told her the only way to avoid being killed was to cooperate by spying on communications with the U.S. at the embassy.” Her mother and father soon left Iran for Paris, and then the United States.
Penniless They were refugees, with just their clothes and whatever they could carry in a suitcase. “We lost everything, including our home and my father’s pension. We were completely penniless, and went from a fairly comfortable life to being completely poor.” For Saber, it also meant starting her education over again. She’d been an engineering student fluent in four languages, but U.S. colleges didn’t credit her classes in France. So she enrolled in math at Glendale Community College, and then transferred to UCLA. “My math instructor at Glendale encouraged me to tutor other students, and I found out that I really loved teaching,” she enthuses, “even more than I loved math itself. Seeing other people understand an idea and succeed made me higher than
personal success for myself. I also found that the reason I liked engineering was the math, so I decided, why not just study the math itself?” Saber worked her way through school as a bookkeeper. When she decided to get her doctorate from USC, she chose as her dissertation topic the funding mechanisms for community colleges. She returned to Glendale as an instructor, and soon became involved in the union. She joined the negotiating team during contract talks, and was elected to the union’s executive board. Last year she was elected president of the local. She stepped into the middle of the ongoing budget wars in her own district and in the state. The union at Glendale is expecting tough negotiations this spring. “We’ve seen three district openers, and they’re using the current budget crisis to go after every benefit faculty have won over decades,” she charges. “We have a big fight ahead.”
Hammering out solutions Saber believes that as union president her first responsibility is to ensure that faculty stay united in the face of contract proposals intended to divide them. “We have different groups of people, with different needs and vulnerabilities,” she explains. “Some part-time faculty could lose their jobs if the district goes into class-cutting mode. Part-time faculty are threatened with the loss of pro rata pay. In the past we’ve tried to keep everyone on the same schedule. So the difficult and beautiful part of my job is understanding the needs of different groups, and trying to hammer out solutions that do the minimum of harm, and that honor everyone.” Meanwhile, on the state level, she and the local have been mobilizing support for the CFT campaign to put the Millionaire’s Tax on the ballot. Here also she believes that uniting different constituencies, and even different proposals, is the most important challenge. For a union leader in a community college, it’s not easy. “There’s a huge disparity between the funding for com-
Isabelle Saber was once a refugee from the Iranian clerical dictatorship. Now she is a math instructor and faculty union leader in Glendale.
munity colleges and the UC and state university systems,” she says. “We’re providing the backfill students need when they arrive in those institutions, but we have to provide that instruction with half the money. At the same time, we’re moving further and further away from the master plan. “Our community’s needs are increasingly ignored in the community college system. We’re becoming assembly lines, sending students off with the certifica-
or Afghanistan,” Saber warns. “It is a much larger country, and half its population was born since 1980. No amount of weaponry alone can overcome them. But a war will produce huge numbers of dead. I can’t condone even one “collateral” death. Taking a life can never be “collateral,” and war is never the answer to anything. Those last two wars have shown us this at great cost. There must be other ways to resolve our differences.” From the salaries of faculty to
“Our community’s needs are increasingly ignored in the community college system. We’re becoming assembly lines, sending students off with the certifications employers want, instead of educating full citizens. It may be heresy for a math teacher to say this, but not everything is quantifiable, and we’re seeing basic human needs going by the wayside.” tions employers want, instead of educating full citizens. It may be heresy for a math teacher to say this, but not everything is quantifiable, and we’re seeing basic human needs going by the wayside.”
Math-based lens Saber uses her math-based lens to examine larger issues, including war and peace. The money needed by community colleges has already funded enormous destruction in Iraq and Afghanistan. And if that were not bad enough, now an even larger war seems not just possible, but imminent. “Iran is not Iraq
the budget of the community college system to the choices between war and peace, Saber’s mathematical and budgetary skills give her unique insight. Now she worries about passing those skills on. “A lot of senior faculty showed me the way when I was coming up,” she remembers. “Now I want to foster the next generation, help them to grow and get them ready to take over. I stay as close to our members as possible, and make sure I hear from them. That’s a challenge I take very seriously.” By David Bacon
P E R S P E C TI V E March 2012
Pechthalt talks with Occupy Education
So long Millionaires Tax: Hello winning a (mostly) progressive tax in November
The room in the spartan offices of the UAW/UC graduate student union was filled with 125 deeply disappointed Bay Area college students and educators. Pechthalt had left the CFT Executive Council meeting in Alameda to provide the Occupy Education GA with the reasoning behind why CFT had dropped the popular Millionaires Tax for a compromise that included a regressive sales tax.
No one happy Among the attendees were a couple dozen AFT members from surrounding K-12 districts and higher education institutions. No one was happy about leaving the Millionaires Tax behind. Pechthalt was given five minutes, and then a two minute extension, to explain CFT’s thinking. Pechthalt described how the CFT and its community partners, in a year-long process, had brought together a number of unions to fund the opinion research that led us to the formulation of the Millionaires Tax. Along the way we were joined by the California Labor Federation, two large SEIU locals, the SEIU state council, and the California Faculty Association. We thought we had a coalition robust enough for victory. But we lost most of those partners in early December when the SEIU state council, in a stunning reversal, and without warning, held an internal vote on the governor’s tax proposal, and forced its locals out of our coalition. From then until the moment we came to our agreement with the governor, said Pechthalt, we looked for labor partners with deep enough pockets to fund a winning campaign. We never found them. And as important as building a movement around progressive taxes is to us, we did not believe, he said, that we could ride that to victory at the polls. There were murmurs of dissent in the room. Responding to that, Pechthalt pointed out that of the 300,000 signatures we had gathered thus far,
fewer than ten thousand had come from volunteers.
Most revenue ever from a progressive tax Pechthalt also pointed out that the compromise measure will provide the most revenue ever raised by a progressive tax in California history ($9 billion in the first year, $6 billion ongoing for seven years)), and that by starting the high end income tax increase at $500,000 instead of the $1 million threshold proposed by the Millionaires Tax, the new one is actually a more progressive measure, taxing the full 1%.
The coexistence of the 85% progressive/15% regressive components in the new ballot measure represents a perfect chance to discuss the nature of taxation, and to lift the conversation out of the simplistic right wing populist swamp in which it has languished for thirty years. The response to Pechthalt was generally respectful, but there was much confusion over what the new initiative will do. Due to Occupy’s ultra democratic discussion rules, many questions couldn’t be addressed. Imagining similar questions in the minds of Perspective readers, here are a few more points. There was much criticism of the regressive sales tax component in the new measure. CFT shares the unhappiness about this. But here are some figures. For a low-income earner making $20,000 a year, the proposed ¼ cent sales tax increase will amount to an extra $50 per year, if she spent her entire income on sales taxable items. But that is more than matched by the
Fred Glass photo
hree days after the announcement that the Restoring California coalition, supporting the Millionaires Tax, had reached an agreement with Governor Jerry Brown to drop our competing ballot measures and come together behind a new compromise initiative, I accompanied CFT president Joshua Pechthalt to an Occupy Education General Assembly in Berkeley. $243 in added access to education and services every Californian will receive courtesy of the high-income earner tax portion of the measure. 85% of the revenue comes from a progressive tax. And as Pechthalt pointed out, we pushed the governor from a one cent sales tax last spring, to a half cent by December, and down to a quarter cent today, while increasing the tax on the 1%.
Not an end in itself We never saw the Millionaires Tax as an end in itself. We wanted to build a movement, yes, but not for a Millionaires Tax per se. We had two goals: to create a vehicle to kick-start a serious long-term conversation about taxes in this state to replace the right wing paradigm that all taxes are evil; and to put on the ballot the most progressive tax that could bring in the most revenue—and win. But given the forces arrayed against us, we became convinced that the last part was missing in action with the Millionaires Tax. CFT supports progressive tax policy as the antidote to the vicious cycle of growing economic inequality and declining public sector funding.
We miss the Millionaires Tax and its signs, revelations, and banners, including the one carried by Alisa Messer, Dean Murakami, and Jeff Freitas, among others.
But in generally condemning regressive taxes, we have sometimes made the hard decision to support one if the choice is a public service going over a cliff versus saving it with a regressive tax. We won’t like it, but we hate losing bus routes, or the postal service, or CalWORKS, or small class sizes, even more. And during a regressive tax campaign (e.g., parcel taxes) we don’t stop advocating, educating, and organizing for an ultimate progressive tax solution. We have the opportunity for this precise conversation now. The coexistence of the 85% progressive/15% regressive components in the new ballot
measure represents a perfect chance to discuss the nature of taxation, and to lift it out of the simplistic right wing populist swamp in which it has languished for thirty years. Are we disappointed to say goodbye to our wonderful millionaires tax? Yes. It was pure as first snowfall. We were building a movement, raising class consciousness, piggy backing on the Occupy movement’s conversation about economic inequality, and gaining billions in revenue. We were just pretty sure it would be gone by spring. By Fred Glass
Highlights of the compromise tax measure proposed by Governor Jerry Brown and the Restoring California Coalition, which includes the California Federation of Teachers Increases the state income tax on top earners by 1-3 percent for seven years, starting January, 1, 2012, and ending December 31, 2018.
• For taxable income above $250,000 for single filers and above $500,000 for joint filers, the rate for the portion above those thresholds would increase by 1 percent, from 9.3 percent to 10.3 percent. • For taxable income above $300,000 for single filers and above $600,000 for joint filers, the rate for the portion above those thresholds would increase by 2 percent, from 9.3 percent to 11.3 percent. • For taxable income above $500,000 for single filers and above $1 million for joint filers, the rate for the portion above those thresholds would increase by 3 percent, from 9.3 percent to 12.3 percent. Raises the statewide sales tax by a quarter-cent, from 7.25 percent to 7.5 percent, for four years, starting January 1, 2013, and ending Dec. 31, 2016. Approximate percentages of progressive income tax and regressive sales tax revenues: 85% progressive, 15% regressive. Expected revenues in first year: $7 - 9 billion (includes 18 months of income tax revenue); ongoing: $5 - 7 billion per year
March 2012 P E R S P E C TIVE
New corporate power grab
November initiative is part of national anti-labor strategy T
he push to silence educators—while undermining public education—is rolling across the nation, and it is aimed squarely at college faculty as well as K-12 teachers. It is part of an ongoing conservative strategy to privatize social services and to reduce, if not eliminate, the voices of those advocating for the common good.
Check out the rhetoric that has dominated the media over the past several months. Home-schooling Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum has bashed higher education as a bastion of secular values. He’s even attacked President Obama as a “snob” for encouraging all young people to attend college or to take advantage of some sort of post-highschool job training program. Candidate Mitt Romney has made attacks on organized labor a part of his stump speech, appearing before an anti-labor contractors association and attacking the United Auto Workers for collaborating with management and the government to save a million autorelated jobs.
The Republican candidates propose further undermining the National Labor Relations Act and support adopting state-level anti-labor bills, à la Wisconsin.
Deceptive wrapping In California, Orange County businessmen and out-of-state conservatives have already qualified an initiative for the November 2012 ballot that would effectively eliminate the ability of educators to come together to shape public policy. This new voter initiative, which is yet unnumbered, is similar in intent to two previously defeated measures, Proposition 226 in 1998, and Proposition 75 in 2005. The anti-labor initiative is
deceptively wrapped in the veneer of good government. For example, the measure would prohibit unions and corporations alike from collecting political funds through payroll deductions. But in practice, only unions collect most or all of their funds through payroll deductions. Wealthy donors simply write a personal check or use company profits. Recall for a moment the last gubernatorial campaign in California. In 2010, CEO Meg Whitman spent millions of her personal fortune to obtain the state’s top office. She was unable to effectively buy the office only because organized labor provided a critical counterbalance for the underfunded Jerry Brown. Had unions been prohibited
from participating in the election, Whitman would have financially overwhelmed Brown in a one-sided contest. Had that happened, thousands more teachers would have been laid off—and colleges and schools would be facing still greater cuts. Applied to voter initiatives, these rules would prohibit CFT from supporting the likes of Proposition 98, which guarantees baseline education funding, or supporting a surcharge on millionaires to fund education and other state services.
Draconian proposal The impact of this draconian proposal is not limited to state issues and candidates. It would also be felt dramatically at the local level. Imagine trying to elect a community college trustee—or pass a facility bond, or a parcel tax—if your local union had to sit on the sidelines. Do you want only college trustees—or state legislators— elected to office who are
wealthy enough to self-finance their campaigns or who have well-heeled friends? The timing of this initiative is not coincidental. It is part of the broad anti-labor campaign that is being pushed in the Midwest and around the nation. Conservatives believe that even if their initiative is defeated at the ballot box, they will have gained a strategic advantage, because organized labor will have been forced to spend its limited resources in a defensive fight and thus hindered in proposing its own proactive measures. Educators must prove that the Right is wrong. To keep alive the California Dream, faculty must unite with other working families to defeat this unfair proposal—and to support measures and candidates, from president to trustee, committed to expanding economic and educational opportunity for all. By Kenneth Burt, CFT Political Director
The measure would prohibit unions and corporations alike from collecting political funds through payroll deductions. But in practice, only unions collect most or all of their funds through payroll deductions. Wealthy donors simply write a personal check or use company profits.
March in March: A day better than most
They headed to Sacramento, where petitioners for change in California inevitably go. The march began with numerous mini-rallies at South Side Park, a mile from the Capitol, as each group descended from buses, hefting banners and trying out chants. At the Millionaires Tax tent, people signed petitions to put the tax on the November ballot, grabbed Millionaires Tax signs (the Los Rios Community College Federation produced a thousand for the occasion), and took stacks of petitions for circulation during the march and rally on the Capitol steps. The march stretched several long blocks. The most prominent messages were easily the ones for the Millionaires Tax, both preprinted and hand-lettered varieties, although there was plenty of visual competition from students asking for help finding jobs, classes, and money to pay for classes.
Ten thousand strong The marchers arrived at the Capitol ten thousand strong. A cavalcade of speakers, including some top leaders of the state Legislature, denounced cuts to education spending. Some in the boisterous but peaceful crowd noted the irony of the people responsible for budget cuts to education and services calling for an end to those cuts. The Millionaires Tax proponents diligently reset up their tables and tent on the Capitol lawn, and walked
through the milling crowd with their clipboards. Many in the crowd returned to their buses and rode home after the rally. But the day was far from over. Occupy Education, an ad hoc group of educators, students, and school staff from all levels of public education inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, had prepared a Wisconsin-style visit to the Capitol. As the noon rally broke up, UC graduate student union leader Charlie Eaton raised his bullhorn and shouted “Mic check!” The
Many in the crowd returned to their buses and rode home after the rally. But the day was far from over. Occupy Education, an ad hoc group of educators, students, and school staff from all levels of public education inspired by the Occupy Wall Street movement, had prepared a Wisconsin-style visit to the Capitol.
Fred Glass photo
hey came from as far away as UC Riverside on buses. San Francisco City College sent 35 busloads of students, faculty and staff, and the Peralta Community College District sent fourteen. David Yancey got up at 5 a.m. to ride from San Jose City College.
San Francisco City College students came out in force for the March in March. Also shown: SFCC Labor and Community Studies Department chair Bill Shields.
group of occupiers around him responded, “Mic check!” A circle formed around Eaton, and a decision was quickly reached by hundreds of demonstrators to head into the Capitol.
Occupy the Capitol In the Rotunda, a couple hundred protestors took seats
on the marble floor. Two hundred more spilled into the hallways radiating out from the central space. Berkeley teacher Dana Blanchard facilitated the beginning of the meeting, which featured the now familiar Occupy Wall Street method of the group repeating a speaker’s
continued on page 6
P E R S P E C TI V E March 2012
Legislative Update Judith Michaels, CFT Legislative Representative
Legislature returns from recess A
s election year politics overtake legislators, an ambitious array of bills awaits action before adjournment on August 31, 2012. for districts exceeding the 50% Faculty Overload threshold to bargain such a cap. Since the bill would not pertain The Federation believes that to jurisdictions with a cap on the assignment of excessive overload, we should avoid the course overloads to full-time faculty can be detrimental to the fiscal effect of requiring a cap in quality of instruction, harmful to districts that already have one. Heavy teaching schedules may student progress, and impair the affect performance, a situation work of institutional developthat could apply to part-timers ment and performance of proteaching an excessive number of fessional duties. These concerns have led some districts, and their units at a variety of campuses. However, from the perspecunions, to negotiate limits on tive of many part-time faculty, overload. when full-time faculty take Last year we entered AB 383 overloads, not only do adjuncts (Portantino) into the legislative process and Community College lose income, but they may also lose their eligibility for health Council discussions in Decembenefits. In addition, when fullber defined a reasonable limit: 50% in a given primary semester timers teach excessive overload, part-time faculty may be left or quarter. However, in Januwithout assignments, struggling ary 2011, the Higher Education for a limited number of classes, Committee declined to move on it, citing confusion about our and making it easier for administrators to treat part-timers as intent; thus, we are reintroducing the overload discussion with expendable. Passage of AB 1826 will help AB 1826 (Roger Hernandez), us maximize student contact a bill that will recognize local and promote student success. contract limits and allow time
When full-timers teach excessive overload, part-time faculty may be left without assignments, struggling for a limited number of classes, and making it easier for administrators to treat part-timers as expendable.
Additionally, AB 1826 would not prevent full-time faculty from traveling to a neighboring district or university to teach specialized classes, and the curriculum would continue to be enriched by teachers with fulltime jobs in the private sector moonlighting as community college adjuncts.
Legislation implementing “Student Success”
CFT-sponsored bills in the works We are continuing to work on amendments for two CFT-sponsored bills that began in 2011 and await further action this spring: SB 114 (Yee) passed the Senate January 26, 2012 and is now in the Assembly. We will be working on amendments that meet the original goal of the bill to address problems and inconsistencies that occur in part-time faculty CalSTRS service credit reporting by districts. AB 852 (Fong) passed the Assembly June 2, 2011 and is now in the Senate Education Committee. We are working with our allies to draft amendments to ensure the bill will help secure the right of part time faculty members to have 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.
endured over the past several years, the bill seemed to blame our colleges for California’s economic woes, maintaining that the community colleges offered “frivolous” avocational courses to a “professional student” community that enrolled year after year, crowding out students seeking certificates and degrees. Senators voted the bill down in June 2010, but Senator Liu gained reconsideration and support by promising to change its punitive focus by creating a task force to work out details to help students define and achieve goals, a promise she kept when the bill moved to the Assembly and then on to Governor Brown. The report, however, is silent on many aspects vital to student
success, ignoring the engaged faculty and classified staff who labor in our colleges. In 2010 we sponsored ACR 138, currently on file with California’s Secretary of State, expressing the intent of the Legislature that part-time and temporary faculty should receive pay and benefits that are equal to those of tenured and tenure-track faculty, and that 75 percent of community college faculty should be tenure-track. Although ACR 138 did not change any statutes, its passage shows that legislators do pay attention to the inequities in the current staffing system in our colleges and believe that it is wrong. We need to remind them of those facts as SB 1456, introduced on February 24, 2012, moves through the legislative process.
underway by 5:30 pm. The final speaker was the omnipresent Eaton, who pointed toward UC-AFT president Bob Samuels and UC Davis librarian Axel Borg holding stacks of pizza boxes. He noted that the people inside the Capitol were hungry and thirsty, and that the occupiers were in there doing this for us out here, and for California. The crowd agreed, and yet again when Eaton urged them to come and deliver the pizzas. Unfortunately for this plan,
hundreds of police and CHP in riot gear stood in formation between the crowd and the Capitol door. Following a mildly tense confrontation between pizza bearing demonstrators and unyielding police, Eaton handed the megaphone to someone who announced that the Rotunda occupiers had
just been ordered to disperse, and those who had chosen to stay were in the process of being arrested (ultimately around 70). As there was no more need for pizza inside, the crowd melted away, satisfied with a day’s work better than most.
Fred Glass photo
Billed as “a bold plan for refocusing on student success,” the 22 recommendations contained in the Student Success Task Force Report issued January 17, 2012 will rely on passage of at least one bill this year, SB 1456, by Senator Alan Lowenthal and Senator Carol Liu. CFT opposed the legislation that created the task force (SB 1143, Liu—statutes of 2010). SB 1143 tapped a strong belief within the legislature that increasing the rate of community college degree and certificate completion would help build a skilled and economically productive labor force. Senator Liu noted that, of those entering the community colleges seeking a degree (as opposed to remediation or enrichment) only 29% complete that certificate or degree or transfer to a university within seven years of enrolling. Ignoring the starvation diet community colleges have
March in March continued from page 5 phrases so all could hear. The process was made more cumbersome as the CHP cordoned off the Rotunda, restricting access and necessitating echoes of echoes down the corridors for the occupiers not fortunate enough to be roped into the Rotunda: “We are going to take” (pause for the Rotunda repetition) “We are going to take” (pause for the hallway repetitions) “We are going to take,” “A vote.” “A vote.” “A vote.” Despite these difficulties, the
entire group voted to support five specific demands: Pass the Millionaires Tax, Cancel all student debt, Democratize the CSU and UC Regents and boards of directors, Fully fund education, and Amend Proposition 13 to allow for a split roll tax.
Pizza and police Outside a support rally of several hundred people, organized by the Sacramento Central Labor Council, was
By Fred Glass
March 2012 P E R S P E C TIVE
One hundred year commemoration
San Diego labor remembers the free speech fight of 1912 2012 is the 100-year anniversary of the San Diego Free Speech Fight, one of the most important moments in the history of the city of San Diego. During the winter and spring of 1912, members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW, or “Wobblies,” as they were nicknamed) and their allies in labor and the community engaged in a pitched battle against a city ordinance that banned public speaking in the area around 5th and E Streets in downtown San Diego. In the course of this struggle, many were arrested, beaten, and even killed for asserting their rights to public speech and assembly—for the simple right to stand on a soapbox and speak. The response to what started as an organizing drive for the local IWW turned into a national cause to defend the rights of ordinary working people and citizens of all classes to free speech, with thousands of people flooding into San Diego, defying the ban, and filling the jails in protest.
Centennial commemoration For the last year, AFT Local 1931, the San Diego and Imperial Counties Labor Council, the American Civil Liberties Union, and our community allies have played a leading role
in the commemoration of the centennial of the San Diego Free Speech Fight. We launched a website, and helped sponsor an exhibit at the Centro Cultural de la Raza. A special event at City College featured original speeches and music from the period along with the premiere
In the course of this struggle, many were arrested, beaten, and even killed for asserting their rights to public speech and assembly—for the simple right to stand on a soapbox and speak. of the CFT documentary on the San Diego Free Speech Fight, Talking Heads (which will become part of the statewide CFT Labor in the Schools curriculum). We also screened other films about labor and civil rights struggles, did a panel at the University of San Diego, and staged a re-enactment of the events of 1912 on the streets of
downtown San Diego at 5th and E Streets on February 8, 2012. Earlier in the year, the Labor Council submitted a report to the Historical Resources Board to have the corner of 5th and E designated a historical site and, on February 7th, the San Diego City Council issued a proclamation repudiating the repression of free speech in 1912. Presented by Councilmember Marti Emerald and Councilmember Todd Gloria, it proclaimed …by the Council of the City of San Diego, that this Council, for and on behalf of the people of San Diego, on this 100th anniversary of the historic San Diego Free Speech Fight, does express its deep dismay for our predecessors’ actions and formally reiterates the Council’s repudiation of this shameful ordinance. The enemies of free speech at the time included many in local government, business, and the press, and free speech fighters were the victims of violence at the hands of the local police as well as torture by vigilantes. Perhaps the best known incident in the free speech fight was when the famous anarchist, Emma Goldman, came to town and was nearly attacked by a mob at Santa Fe Station before being escorted to the US Grant Hotel, where her lover, Ben Reitman, was kidnapped by vigilantes, driven north, tortured, tarred and feathered and sent to Los Angeles. This was, perhaps, the most glaring example of how flimsy American “rights” were for those who held unpopular political opinions at the time. Photo courtesy of Labadie Collection, University of Michigan
Wobbly soapboxer talks with crowd during free speech fight.
Photo courtesy of Labadie Collection, University of Michigan
s we watch the Occupations from New York to San Diego fight for the right to exercise free speech and occupy public space, it is worth noting that we have been here before.
Members of the Industrial Workers of the World came from across the country to ‘soapbox’ against the repression of free speech rights in San Diego in 1912.
Legacy lives on While the repression shut down the soap-boxers at 5th and E temporarily, the right to free speech was eventually restored to San Diegans in 1915 when the ban was overturned and legal picketing was established as a basic right. Today, anyone who enjoys the right to assemble, protest, and speak in public in San Diego has the Free Speech League of the Progressive Era to thank for fighting to maintain basic rights for all San Diegans. The legacy of this time lived on in every labor and civil rights fight that followed. For those interested in learning more about this history, the San Diego Free Speech Fight site offers links to original historical documents as well as contemporary accounts of the struggle and links to resources on the IWW, Emma Goldman, and more. In the Gallery you can see original photos from the fight and you can go to the Links page and
listen to recordings of Wobbly songs from the era. As some of the more ugly incidents of recent history have reminded us, San Diego has had a dark history of vigilante violence in response to progressive activism. Now it’s good to see its antidote on display in front of banks, in the plaza, and on the campuses. The Centennial of the San Diego Free Speech Fight was an historic first for San Diego labor and the city of San Diego as a whole. Those who forget the lessons of the past are doomed to repeat them. Let’s hope our commemoration took a small step toward preserving and respecting the heroic struggles of labor in our city’s past. By Jim Miller For more information, go to www.aftguild.org/free_ speech/index.html
P E R S P E C TI V E March 2012
Local Action Matthew Goldstein photo
Oakland Peralta coalition takes on Morgan Stanley’s toxic derivative swap On Valentine’s Day, about seventy-five somber figures marched single file into a downtown Oakland office building, many bearing black-painted cardboard hearts. Group therapy for jilted lovers? A conceptual art piece about the perils of office romance? Neither, as it turns out. The marchers were calling attention to a costly derivative deal that one of the building’s tenants, Morgan Stanley, made with the Peralta Community College District. Morgan Stanley, the beneficiary of $10 billion in taxpayer bailout money in 2009, now has the struggling Oakland-based college district locked into a budget-busting interest-rate swap. The swap costs the district, which in better times served more than 20,000 inner-city college students, around $1.6 million annually—chump change to Morgan Stanley, but enough to add over 300 class sections at Peralta’s four colleges, Berkeley City College, College of Alameda, and Laney and Merritt Colleges. The February 14 march marked the most recent and dramatic action by an organization calling itself, straightforwardly enough,
To see the student-made video “Morgan Stanley, You’re breaking my heart,” go to www.youtube.com/ watch?v=mBbLm8Z2mWU Peralta Federation of Teachers member Peter Brown delivers a valentine to Morgan Stanley.
ongoing budget cuts, Peralta presented itself as exactly the kind of place that would benefit greatly from a better deal from the banks. To get the campaign started, Abigail Brewer, president of Peralta’s staff union, SEIU 1021, and I sent a letter to Morgan Stanley, asking that the district be let out of its swap and that no termination charges be imposed. The
Morgan Stanley, the beneficiary of $10 billion in taxpayer bailout money in 2009, now has the struggling Oaklandbased college district locked into a budget-busting interestrate swap. “The Coalition,” a loose affiliation of Peralta faculty, staff, and students, community groups, and other East Bay citizens concerned about the predatory practices of corporate banks. The Peralta Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 1603, representing about 1,000 Peralta faculty members, has played a key leadership role in organizing The Coalition.
A better deal In fall 2011, researchers from the Service Employees International Union and the Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) began working with Jim Araby, CFT’s state political organizer, to identify public school districts involved in pricey interest-rate swaps with Wall Street banks. Having turned away more than 4,000 students over the last four years due to
While more meetings between Morgan and Peralta have apparently been scheduled, no significant progress in changing the terms of the deal has so far been announced. The Coalition continues to meet regularly, and is hard at work on a new campaign. With St. Patrick’s Day, April Fool’s Day, and Earth Day just around the corner, Morgan Stanley can likely look forward to further lively actions in and around its offices—unless, that is, it decides to live up to its pledge “to invest in students in minority and underserved communities” by simply dropping the swap.
November 14 letter described the consequences of Peralta’s grim financial situation—class cuts, layoffs, etc.—and then made the case for forgiveness: In 2009, we, the taxpayers, bailed out the banks, which have since returned to raking in enormous profits and paying out big bonuses, even as the public that got the banks off the hook suffers. Now that our communities are facing multimillion dollar deficits, we appeal to your sense of decency and public-mindedness and ask that you renegotiate as we struggle to provide basic services to a community already hurting from the economic and housing crisis. Unsurprisingly, the bank didn’t bother to respond directly to the letter sent by Brewer and me. But
less than a month after the letter went out—and just eight days after members of The Coalition packed a Peralta Board of Trustees meeting to demand an end to the swap—Morgan Stanley sent two representatives to the district to begin discussions. A second closed-door meeting with district officials soon followed, but the toxic deal remained in place. I sent another demand letter to the bank, this time with a reminder to Morgan Stanley about its professed concern for public education: “Morgan Stanley clearly takes pride in its ‘long-standing commitment to investing in students in minority and underserved communities,’ a commitment celebrated on its website.” The Coalition, under the direction of Araby and CFT/ PFT PLUCC organizer Janell Hampton, then met to discuss taking more direct forms of action, and it came up with the “Morgan Stanley, you’re breaking my heart” campaign to coincide with Valentine’s Day. More than 2,500 Peralta students wrote “brokenhearted valentines” to the bank, each detailing an individual’s struggles with the budget cuts at the colleges.
“Wake for public education” Joining with representatives from supporters of the Metropolitan Transit Commission, also the victim of a multimillion-dollar swap with Morgan, Coalition members delivered the valentines in person to the bank’s Oakland offices, and then held a “wake for public education” in the building’s lobby.
By Matthew Goldstein, president, Peralta Federation of Teachers, Local 1603
Los Angeles McDowell appointed to California Student Aid Commission
the Los Angeles College Faculty Guild, AFT Local 1521, was also the founder of the Labor Center at Trade Tech, in the LACCD. According to Speaker Perez, “In a time when access to higher education for lower-income and middle-class Californians is threatened by ever increasing costs, we need educators like John McDowell to protect our state’s financial aid programs. With 25 years of experience fighting for higher education access, John McDowell is the type of leader who will defend the critical programs that make higher education possible for all Californians.” “I strongly believe in access, affordability, and quality education,” McDowell emphasizes. “I’ve been fighting fee increases all my life, and I want to make higher education accessible to as many people as possible.” In addition to dealing with the proposal for aid cuts to students, the Commission is also investigating the role played by for-profit institutions. Many have been accused of being “diploma mills,” increasing profits by charging students high fees, and then getting them to apply for financial aid to pay for them.
ohn McDowell, appointed by Assembly Speaker John Perez to the California Student Aid Commission, says his first mission will be to stop the cuts in student aid, especially to oppose Governor Jerry Brown’s proposal to cut $300 million from Cal Grants. The commission administers financial aid programs for students attending California public and private institutions of higher education. McDowell, political director for
The unkindest cut of all Community colleges, like every sector of public education, have been devastated by deep cut after deep cut over the last few years. We’ve slashed class offerings, wiped out support services, laid off part-time faculty, drawn down reserves and reduced employees’ wages and benefits to try to cope with shrunken budgets. But the most recent cut, announced in February, is truly the “unkindest cut of all,” because it is a cut that community colleges have suffered all alone and it came so late in the academic year that it has been impossible to address in a sensible way. The State overestimated student fee revenue by $106 million and property tax revenue by $43 million, so the colleges are being asked to absorb another $149 million in cuts. Please call your local legislator to urge that this money be immediately backfilled.