AFT Hails Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Law

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WASHINGTON—Statement by American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten on President Obama’s signing of the bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act:

“Career and technical education programs provide incredibly important pathways to success. The bipartisan bill that President Obama signed today extends the ladder of opportunity to middle-class Americans by providing the guidance, skills and training needed to compete for good 21st-century jobs. The law will help young people, the disabled, the long-term unemployed and those barely getting by on hourly wages to become economically self-sufficient.

“The workforce law provides a blueprint for the reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Act, which has been a lifeline for job training opportunities and focuses on career and technical education programs and collaborative partnerships among employers, communities, schools and labor. We hope that as Congress works on the Perkins reauthorization, it provides much-needed funding for guidance counselors, who can help students explore career options as they contemplate their futures.

“I have witnessed how great career and technical education high schools change lives, such as New York City’s Aviation High School; New York City’s Pathways in Technology Early College High School, or P-Tech, which has IBM and the City College of New York as core partners; and the Toledo (Ohio) Technology Academy, whose partners include the United Auto Workers union. The Albert Shanker Institute and the AFT have been stalwart advocates of career and technical education programs, and we will continue our efforts to help high-quality CTE programs flourish to create innovative pathways to a high school diploma and college and career readiness.”

Stop The Attack On Public Education — AFT Welcomes “Democrats For Public Education”

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Written by Larry Graykin

As a longtime liberal and a union member, I have been dismayed by the Democrats extended, gradual slide toward the political right. Once a little left of center, the typical Democrat nowadays is akin to a moderate Republican of years past. There is no question Eisenhower would be judged “too liberal” for any Republican primary nowadays. My fear is that he’d be deemed too liberal for the Dems, as well.

The worst of the Dems, to my way of thinking, are the Neo-Liberals, simply because they are fleece-wearing wolves. According to Elizabeth Martinez, the main points of neo-liberalism include:

  1. THE RULE OF THE MARKET. Liberating “free” enterprise or private enterprise from any bonds imposed by the government (the state) no matter how much social damage this causes. Greater openness to international trade and investment, as in NAFTA. Reduce wages by de-unionizing workers and eliminating workers’ rights that had been won over many years of struggle. No more price controls. All in all, total freedom of movement for capital, goods and services.
  2. CUTTING PUBLIC EXPENDITURE FOR SOCIAL SERVICES like education and health care. REDUCING THE SAFETY-NET FOR THE POOR, and even maintenance of roads, bridges, water supply — again in the name of reducing government’s role.
  3. DEREGULATION. Reduce government regulation of everything that could diminish profits, including protecting the environment and safety on the job.
  4. PRIVATIZATION. Sell state-owned enterprises, goods and services to private investors. This includes banks, key industries, railroads, toll highways, electricity, schools, hospitals and even fresh water. Although usually done in the name of greater efficiency, which is often needed, privatization has mainly had the effect of concentrating wealth even more in a few hands and making the public pay even more for its needs.
  5. ELIMINATING THE CONCEPT OF “THE PUBLIC GOOD” or “COMMUNITY” and replacing it with “individual responsibility.” Pressuring the poorest people in a society to find solutions to their lack of health care, education and social security all by themselves — then blaming them, if they fail, as “lazy.”

In other words, Neo-Libs are Libertarians in Democrats’ clothing. And yes, as you might wonder, they DO have ties to ALEC, as demonstrated by Mercedes Schneider in her book, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who in the Implosion of American Public Education. 

I’m a teacher, and so I’ve been watching the Democrats for Education Reform (DFER)—the Neo-Lib’s PAC that attends to education—for some time now.  From DFER’s “Statement of Principles”: “We believe that reforming broken public school systems cannot be accomplished by tinkering at the margins, but rather through bold and revolutionary leadership.  This requires opening up the traditional top-down monopoly of most school systems and empowering all parents to access great schools for their children.”  These are the lovers and promoters of Michelle Rhee, of charter schools, of vouchers, of top-down educational reforms (e.g., high-stakes testing, Common Core national standards, the use of VAM in rating teacher quality, etc.)  They support policies “that stimulate the creation of new accountable public schools and which simultaneously close down failing schools.”   These, in short, are enemies of the NEA and the AFT.

And into this landscape trots Donna Brazile.

Donna Brazile, says Wikipedia, is “an American author, academic, and political analyst who is Vice Chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. She was the first African American to direct a major presidential campaign, acting as campaign manager for Al Gore in 2000.” And she is also one of the founding members of “Democrats for Public Education,” an organization that she first announced at AFT’s convention. “I am ashamed of some of Democrats in my own party. We’re not going to be silent while you are being attacked.”

It’s a wonderful speech. Watch it here:

Democrats for Public Education is brand new. Their website is not yet up. Their Facebook page  has little more than a “Stay tuned…” message. But we already know what they stand for. Brazile, along with two co-chairs, former governors Ted Strickland (Ohio) and Jennifer Granholm (Michigan), has indicated that “the group intends to champion additional funds to make quality public education available to everyone, and reject what Brazile called ‘market-driven’ reforms that undermine the learning environment. ‘We have done a poor job educating people about education. Only when we have clarified that, can we talk about how best to achieve it.’”

So…we have a new environment in which Democrats must live.  Each candidate must answer a question that once could be avoided: Will you continue to pay lip-service to unions while aligning yourself with DFER? Or will you truly stand on the side of teachers, students, and unions, and affiliate yourself with Democrats for Public Education?

As Pete Seeger asked in song, “Which side are you on?”

Randi Weingarten Re-elected AFT President

AFT President Weingarten  (Photo by Bruce Gilbert)
AFT President Weingarten  (Photo by Bruce Gilbert)

AFT President Weingarten (Photo by Bruce Gilbert)

Lorretta Johnson re-elected Secretary-Treasurer; Mary Cathryn Ricker chosen to succeed Executive Vice President Francine Lawrence 

LOS ANGELES—Delegates at the American Federation of Teachers national convention voted overwhelmingly to re-elect AFT President Randi Weingarten to a third term. The vote affirms the AFT’s commitment to solution-driven, community-engaged and member-empowered unionism that focuses on uniting union members, the people they serve and the communities in which they live. Also re-elected to lead the 1.6 million-member union was AFT Secretary-Treasurer Lorretta Johnson, who has held that position since 2011.

Joining Weingarten and Johnson as the AFT’s new executive vice president is the president of the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers, Mary Cathryn Ricker. Ricker will replace Francine Lawrence, who plans to retire this year.

Ricker has led AFT Local 28 since 2005 and has been a member of the AFT K-12 Teachers program and policy council since 2006. She has previously represented the AFT internationally in Finland and the Middle East; and she has represented the Saint Paul Federation of Teachers on mayoral Sister City delegations to Germany and Mexico. Ricker is a National Board Certified middle school English teacher who has taught in classrooms all across the country and internationally.

The union also elected 43 vice presidents representing each of the AFT’s divisions: K-12 teachers; paraprofessionals and other school-related personnel; higher education faculty and professional staff; public employees; and healthcare workers.

“Over the coming two years, we will work to achieve all these dreams—of a more just society; an economy that works for all Americans; healthcare that puts patients ahead of profits; and public education from early childhood through 16 and more that nurtures the potential of every student in every way,” said Weingarten. “But dreaming does not mean dozing. We are leaving this convention charged up. Fired up.”

“Let us not waver in our commitment to make sure that every child, no matter their ZIP code, gets an amazing public education,” said Johnson. “Let us not falter in our fight to collectively bargain for wages and benefits.”

“I am energized by this convention and the mandate you’ve given our union and us leaders to work tirelessly to reclaim the promise of America and restore the gains that have been rolled back—by being solution-driven, community-engaged, member-involved and, yes, I guess this Minnesotan can be a little badass too,” said Ricker.

The AFT has been holding its biennial convention, which began on July 11 and ends today, at the Los Angeles Convention Center. Earlier in the convention, the more than 3,500 delegates passed a series of resolutions and special orders of business to increase educational and economic opportunity, including:

Creating a Healthcare System That Puts Patient Care Above Profits
Safe and Effective Nurse Staffing Saves Lives, Prevents Errors
Ending the Exploitation of and the Reliance on a Contingent Academic Labor System in Higher Education
Support U.S. Postal Workers: Boycott Staples
Our Commitment to Fighting Back and Fighting Forward
The Role of Standards in Public Education
Real Accountability for Equity and Excellence in Public Education

CLICK HERE to say Congrats to President Weingarten on Twitter.

AFT Calls For Education Sec. Duncan To Resign, After He Gets His Due Process

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AFT Members Commit to Fighting Back Against Vergara, Harris Decisions
Special Order of Business Passes at AFT Convention

LOS ANGELES—Today, delegates of the American Federation of Teachers’ biennial convention in Los Angeles unanimously passed a special order of business—recommended by the executive council—to fight back against attacks on unions and teachers like Vergara v. California and Harris v. Quinn, and to fight forward to reclaim the promise of America.

The special order characterizes these lawsuits as “contributing to an escalating and engineered imbalance in our democracy.”

Amended from the floor, the order—originally drafted by the executive council—was revised to include strong language on Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who publicly supported the Vergara decision. It derided his promotion of “misguided and ineffective policies on deprofessionalization, privatization and test obsession.”

The order called upon the president of the United States to “implement a secretary improvement plan which will be based upon standing up for public education, supporting teachers and all school workers, inspiring parents and the public to join us in creating the public schools we want and deserve, and leading with us in reclaiming the promise of public education.”

It asked the president to take the following actions:

  • Enact the funding and equity recommendations of the Each and Every Child report issued by the congressionally chartered, bipartisan Equity Commission;
  • Work with us to change the NCLB/RTTT “test and punish” accountability system to a “support and improve” model; and
  • Promote rather than question the teachers and school support staff of America.

It goes on to say that if “Secretary Duncan does not improve, and given that he has been treated fairly and his due process rights have been upheld, the secretary of education must resign.”

AFT President Randi Weingarten made a statement following the passage of the special order:

“This special order is basically saying, “Enough is enough.” Teachers are evaluated and their future livelihoods are linked to that. And when they fall short, they should have a chance to improve. And that’s what this special order represents. Make no mistake about it: There’s a lot of hurt that has been expressed from the floor—the feeling that the secretary of education doesn’t walk in the shoes of public educators or provide the support and resources necessary to ensure all children have a high-quality public education.”

AFT Members Pass Resolution Advocating for New Teacher Accountability System

Image by AFT Union

Resolution Calls for Move from Test-and-Punish System to Support-and-Improve Model

Image by AFT Union

Image by AFT Union

LOS ANGELES—To restore joy to teaching and learning and create strong community public schools that are safe, collaborative and welcoming places, AFT members today passed a resolution taking a bold stand against the obsession with testing and calling for an end to the failed test-and-punish accountability system to one focused on support and improvement. AFT President Randi Weingarten called it the most important resolution passed at the AFT convention.

The resolution, “Real Accountability for Equity and Excellence in Public Education,” which passed virtually unanimously, states that “the very purpose of public education and the joy of both teaching and learning are now at risk because policymakers perversely attempt to capture—and evaluate—everything about teaching and learning with testing.”

“Our obsession with testing, in the guise of accountability, is hijacking public schooling,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Testing should be about giving students a sense of where they stand and teachers and parents the information they need to tailor instruction and support kids. Instead, it’s being used to reduce children to test scores and teachers to algorithms.”

The resolution specifically calls out:

  • The over-reliance on flawed value-added measures (VAM) used to punish and sanction teachers;
  • The use of test results to fire teachers, close schools and hand schools over to privatizers;
  • The failure of test-based accountability to improve student performance or ensure equitable distribution of resources;
  • How the current system fails to recognize that two-thirds of the achievement gap is attributable to nonschool factors and is the opposite approach taken by education systems that outcompete us globally;
  • The increased segregation through public school disinvestment and charter school and privatization expansion;
  • How inappropriate education policies, austerity budgets, deprofessionalization and privatization have made education about competition instead of about the needs of all children; and
  • The need to respect teachers’ professionalism and engage teachers in improvin equity and excellence in our schools.

“Accountability shouldn’t come down to test-and-punish, and classroom teachers shouldn’t be the only ones held accountable,” Weingarten said. “That’s why we are making the call for a thoughtful accountability system that makes students, not data, the priority, focuses on meaningful student learning and ensures adequate resources. It’s time to stop the failed policy of making every child in every grade take standardized tests every year and evaluating teachers on standardized test scores of students they haven’t even taught.”

Instead of the current failed policies, the resolution calls for:

  • Engaging all stakeholders in planning and implementing accountability systems that are transparent and readily understandable by teachers, families and the broader public;
  • Ensuring that students are taught a well-rounded curriculum, including the arts, the sciences, social studies, civics, world languages, health and physical education, and social, emotional and character development;
  • Assessments that are aligned to higher-order thinking and performance skills;
  • Relying on sampling instead of testing every student at every grade level every year, but retaining disaggregated reporting by race, ethnicity, poverty level, English language status and disability;
  • Identifying schools needing improvement through measures beyond test scores;
  • Holding policymakers and administrators accountable for allocating the necessary resources to support schools;
  • Holding all stakeholders, not just teachers, responsible for meeting students’ needs and achieving both equity and excellence for all students;
  • Ending austerity budgets; and
  • Investments in wraparound services to address the social, emotional and health needs of students.

“Taken together, the education resolutions passed at the AFT’s convention offer a blueprint to help fulfill public education’s essential purpose as an anchor of democracy, a propeller of the economy and the vehicle through which we help all children achieve their dreams,” said Weingarten. “They help build the foundation for a public education system focused on great teaching, a rich and vibrant curriculum focused on learning over testing, safe and welcoming neighborhood public schools, valuing and respecting the voice of educators, and ensuring children have the resources and services they need to enable their success in the classroom and in life.”

Teachers, Postal Workers, and Public Employees Cry Out, “The Mail Is Not For Sale”

Members from AFT MN  (image by @pmueller)
Via twitter @DeniseSpecht

Via twitter @DeniseSpecht

Last night at their bi-annual convention, the American Federation of Teachers adopted a resolution to support of the American Postal Workers Union (APWU) in a national boycott Staples Inc. for their attempt to steal jobs from dedicated postal employee’s and continue the race to the bottom.

It resolves “that members of the AFT, along with friends, colleagues and family members, are urged to no longer shop at Staples stores until further notice.”

Read the resolution here.

Staples and the USPS are set to begin pilot program in 82 retail stores that would have “postal counters” that would provide most of the safe services as a local post office.  These postal counters would be staffed by Staples low-wage, non-union workers, and not by the dedicated clerks of the APWU, who take care of you at you local post office.

These postal counters could mean the end of our local post offices.

Similar resolutions were passed by the California Teachers Union, AFT Michigan, AFT Massachusetts and AFT New Hampshire asking members to shop somewhere else when it came time to buy their “back to school” supplies.

“Postal workers are the most amazing public servants,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Who does Staples really want and need to come into its stores every single day? Teachers. The best way we can help is if we say to Staples: ‘You do this to the postal workers, and we aren’t buying supplies in your stores.’”

AFT President Randi Weingarten (Image by @AFTunion)

AFT President Randi Weingarten (Image by @AFTunion)

School supplies are a key market for Staples, accounting for up to one-third of the company’s sales, according to some estimates. The company, faced with declining sales and revenue, has announced plans to close 225 stores by 2015.

After adopting the resolution, AFT members joined their APWU brothers and sisters in a massive rally outside Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles. AFT President Weingarten and thousands of AFT convention delegates joined members of the American Postal Workers Union and other community members in a rally telling the United States Postal Service and the Staples corporation that the “Mail Is Not for Sale.”

This action is a continuing part of the AFT’s effort to reclaim the promise of an America where consumers are safe, workers are valued and well trained, and middle-class jobs are protected.

APWU President Mark Dimondstein addressed the importance of America’s middle class standing together against the effort to privatize and demonize U.S. postal workers. He said, “We too are in the public sector, we too are meeting the needs of people. We’re facing some of the same problems you are—I call it divert, defund, demoralize, demonize and dismantle.”

APWU President Mark Dimondstein (image by @AFTunion)

APWU President Mark Dimondstein (image by @AFTunion)

I applaud Randi Weingarten and all of the AFT members who adopted this resolution and will show their support for postal workers by boycotting Staples!

Below are pictures taken at the AFT/APWU rally last night.  All images are from twitter.

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America’s Moral Crisis: A Video Of Rev. Dr. William Barber’s Epic Speech At The AFT Convention

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Rev. Dr William Barber Image from AFT’s video below

“There is a moral crisis in the country”

These are the bold words of Rev. Dr. William Barber who is one of the many faith leaders leading the “Moral Monday’s” campaign in North Carolina. Yesterday Rev. Barber was a keynote speaker at this year’s American Federation of Teachers convention in Los Angeles.

“We are declaring that we will go forward together and not take one step back,” Rev. Barber said in his opening.

Rev. Barber warned everyone of a new moral crisis engrossing our country.

“Whoa unto those who legislate evil, and rob the poor of their rights, and make children and women their prey,” Rev. Barber quoted Isaiah 10:1-2

The basis of the Moral Monday’s campaign is push back against the immoral attempts from right-wing conservatives in North Carolina [and other states] to attack voting rights, worker’s rights, women’s rights, immigrant rights, and LGBT rights.

“The same people who are fighting voting rights are fighting women’s rights. The same people who are fighting women’s rights are fighting worker’s rights. The same people fighting worker’s rights are fighting immigrant rights. You and I must be smart enough to hook up, and you ‘hook-up’ with an agenda,” bellowed Rev. Barber.

To combat these attacks, progressive groups throughout North Carolina have been protesting for 62 consecutive weeks, and are slowing changing the perception of North Carolinians that the extremist right-wing agenda is leading North Carolina in the wrong direction.   Recently Rev. Barber and AFT President Randi Weingarten led 80,000 people in a march on the North Carolina capitol in Raleigh, making this the largest single protest since the march in Selma, Alabama for voting rights.

“This immoral agenda goes against our faith and against our democracy,” Rev. Barber said.

“Too often we overestimate their power, and underestimate our own power!”

Together labor leaders, community activists, and the faith community have created their own agenda. (Minute 23:00 of video below)

  1. A pro-labor, anti-poverty policy that creates economic sustainability.
  2. Educational equality by ensuring the every child receives a high quality well funded public education.
  3. Healthcare for all
  4. Fairness in our criminal justice system by addressing the continuing inequalities in the system
  5. We must “hook-up” to protect and expand voting rights, women’s rights, LBGT rights, immigrant rights and we must hold on to the fundamental promise of equal protections under the law.

With this agenda we can be “hooked together with our principles of hope,” said Rev. Barber.

Rev. Barber concluded his epic speech with a monstrous call to action. He called for everyone to “rise up” and “hook-up” together with this agenda and march on your own state capitol between August 21st and Aug 28th. Seven straight days of action, pushing our agenda to the front page of every newspaper.

“Together we will fight for the soul of this nation, and we will challenge anyone who tries to tear us apart!”

This forty-minute video, courtesy of AFT, is one of the best speeches I have ever seen. This speech should be shown at ever labor meeting, church service, and progressive community organizing event until every man, woman, and child has seen it.

Until that happens, you can share this post.

AFT President Randi Weingarten Lays Out Bold Call to Reclaim the Promise of America

AFT President Weingarten  (Photo by Bruce Gilbert)
AFT President Weingarten  (Photo by Bruce Gilbert)

AFT President Weingarten (Photo by Bruce Gilbert)

Los Angeles—American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten kicked off the AFT national convention in Los Angeles today by outlining a bold plan to both fight back and fight forward to reclaim the promise of America and create economic and educational opportunity for all.

In her keynote to more than 3,500 delegates, Weingarten outlined the coordinated attack facing working people, unions, public education and public services—by those who starve public institutions, criticize public institutions, demonize workers and unions, marginalize those who fight back, and peddle private alternatives.

Reclaiming the Promise of America

“The promise of America is being undercut by people who devote their fortunes to decreasing our strength, to advancing the politics of division and to promoting economic policies that redistribute more income to fewer people,” said Weingarten. But, she said, the AFT is better positioned than ever to take these challenges on.

“Despite the toughest environment unions have ever faced, I’m proud to announce that our ranks have grown since we last met. Today, we are larger than ever, a union of more than 1.6 million members,” Weingarten said. Since the AFT’s last convention, the union has grown by more than 64,000 members, making it one of the few unions growing and overcoming the challenges posed by harsh austerity and attacks from politicians such as Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. The AFT gained members in K-12 education, higher education, healthcare and public services, with membership growth in 16 states, 180 new locals in 20 states and 83 new units in 19 states.

Weingarten noted that educators have additional forces lining up to support them, lauding the creation of a new group, Democrats for Public Education, led by Democratic National Committee Vice Chair Donna Brazile, former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and former Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland, “who want to stand up for our students, for our educators and for public education.”

The centerpiece of Weingarten’s speech focused on the need to fight back against the attacks and fight forward to reclaim the promise of America by being solution-driven, community-engaged, member-mobilized and “badass”—a term gaining currency with educators frustrated with attacks on public education and the current direction of education policy. While acknowledging that the promise of America has been more an aspiration than a realization for many Americans throughout our history, Weingarten said that “what’s been enduring and unifying is a vision of America based on a foundation of democracy and economic opportunity. You’ve heard it often: If you work hard, you’ll have a decent life.”

But the promise of America is more than that, said Weingarten. It is ensuring that every kid has a great neighborhood public school that is safe, collaborative and child-centered, not test-obsessed; that students can take advantage of college without being disadvantaged in the process. It is ensuring good healthcare and that Americans won’t go broke if they get sick. It is being treated fairly at work, getting a real raise once in a while, and not having to choose between one’s job and taking care of a sick child or aging parent. It is guaranteeing that a lifetime of hard work will culminate in a retirement with dignity, and that the voice of everyday people won’t be drowned out by the political purchasing power of the wealthy.

Increasing Educational Opportunity

Weingarten outlined key policy solutions to increase educational opportunity, move from a test-and-punish to a support-and-improve accountability system, realize the promise and potential of the Common Core State Standards, and ensure due process for educators. She called out the testing obsession that, under the guise of accountability, is hijacking public schooling and said that too many officials are “reducing children to test scores and teachers to algorithms,” especially by using value-added measures.

“They call what comes out of that black box a ‘value-added measurement,’ or VAM. I call it a sham,” said Weingarten.

She continued, “Accountability shouldn’t come down to “test-and-punish,” and classroom teachers shouldn’t be the only ones held to account. … A support-and-improve accountability system makes students, not data, the priority. It focuses on meaningful student learning and ensures adequate resources. It’s built on a foundation of professionalism and capacity to get the job done.”

On the Common Core, Weingarten said, “Some of you in this room think the standards should be jettisoned. Some support them because you’ve seen them help develop the deeper learning that is the antithesis of “drill-and-kill.” Some of you—myself included—think they hold great promise but that they’ve been implemented terribly.”

Weingarten reaffirmed her call for a moratorium on the high-stakes consequences for students and educators on Common Core-aligned assessments, and said that AFT members would debate the standards on the floor of the convention later in the weekend. She also announced a new AFT Innovation Fund grant for members who are dissatisfied with the standards or their implementation, and have a better solution to meet the needs of their students. And Weingarten called out Education Secretary Arne Duncan and state superintendents like New York’s John King for dismissing the concerns of parents and educators about the implementation of the standards.

“We need a secretary of education who walks our walk, and fights our fight for the tools and resources we need to help children, said Weingarten. “And we are deeply disappointed that this Department of Education has not lived up to that standard.”

In light of the recent Vergara decision, Weingarten launched a full-fledged defense of the need for due process.

“All workers should have due process,” said Weingarten. “And educators, healthcare workers and public workers need it. How else do we have the freedom to stand up for what’s right, for our kids, our patients and our communities? How else do we exercise our professional judgment and prevent going back to patronage systems, where your job depended on who you knew, not what you know?”

Weingarten made clear that not all due process laws are perfect and that, while we must protect against false allegations, there can be no tolerance for sexual misconduct. She also made clear that no teacher wants to work alongside someone not cut out for the profession.

“So I would hope that we could all agree that if someone can’t teach, we should first help, and if that doesn’t work, the person shouldn’t teach. And it shouldn’t take 10 years to litigate whether a teacher should be removed from the classroom,” said Weingarten.

Weingarten specifically condemned the Vergara decision as the wrong prescription, saying that it “presupposes that for kids to win, teachers have to lose.”

“The bitter irony is throwing out due process will make it harder to attract and keep great teachers,” she said. “So yes, we will fight it in the courtroom and the court of public opinion.”

Increasing Economic Opportunity

To create an economy that works for all, Weingarten outlined essential policy proposals that the AFT would advocate for, including growing the labor movement and reviving collective bargaining; increasing retirement security; easing the burden of student debt; funding a higher minimum wage, paid family leave, universal early childhood education, and full, equitable funding for all schools; and increasing investments in infrastructure and incentives to once again manufacture in America. She also highlighted the AFT’s work to invest union member pension funds in infrastructure and create 150,000 good jobs.

Weingarten also called for all Americans to pay their fair share, including closing tax loopholes for carried interest and enacting a financial transaction tax.

Doing all of this, Weingarten said, we will reclaim the promise of America.

“When we fight forward—with the full strength of our union, united with community, prepared to call out problems and bring forth solutions, and willing to be a little bit badass—we not only fight forward, we move forward.”

Weingarten closed out the speech with a call for members to be deeply engaged in politics, saying that elections matter—determining who nominates Supreme Court justices, and whether working people have elected officials who stand with them or attack their jobs and livelihoods.

AFT-MASSACHUETTS Votes To Join Staples Boycott, Encourages National AFT Boycott

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AFT Massachusetts Votes to Boycott Framingham-Based Staples over Deal between Retailer and USPS That Privatizes Work of Local Post Offices

Teachers Union in Support of Postal Workers Urges Educators and School Staff Not to Purchase School Supplies From Staples – Massachusetts Will Join State Teachers Unions From California, Michigan, New Hampshire and Elsewhere in Urging a National Boycott Vote at the Biennial AFT Convention in Los Angeles This Week

AFT_Logo-2BOSTON – AFT Massachusetts, which represents teachers, school workers, public librarians and college faculty across Massachusetts, announced today that it was joining a growing boycott of the office supply and bulk goods retailer Staples. The announcement by Massachusetts teachers and school workers is significant because the Bay State is one of four test markets for a pilot program that moves postal services from local Post Offices to Staples stores. Additionally, Staples corporate headquarters is located in Framingham, Massachusetts.

AFT Massachusetts leaders said the union has taken this action to support the American Postal Workers Union’s battle against a no-bid sweetheart deal struck between the United States Postal Service and the giant office supply chain.  It includes, so far, an 82-store pilot program in which postal counters providing most of the same services as local post offices would operate in Staples stores staffed by low-wage Staples employees rather than uniformed postal workers. USPS managers have stated that they would like to expand the program to 1,500 Staples locations. In recent weeks, the USPS/Staples partnership has drawn outrage across the country, and a May 21 Boston Globe story indicated that Staples may want to consider backing out of the arrangement if public and labor opposition persist.[1]

This week, the 1.5 million-member American Federation of Teachers is expected to pass a national boycott resolution at the union’s biennial convention in Los Angeles that begins on July 10. A large protest of AFT members and postal workers has been scheduled for July 12, in front of the Staples Center, which is adjacent to the Los Angeles Convention Center, where thousands of AFT delegates are convening.

“Public school teachers and our other members value public service,” said AFT Massachusetts President Tom Gosnell. “We know that postal workers are highly trained and care deeply about the security and sanctity of the mail. The decision to outsource neighborhood post offices across the country to a big-box retailer means potentially fewer good jobs and poorer service for our communities.”  Gosnell added, “Our members have choices on where to buy school supplies.  As long as Staples continues with this USPS program we will encourage our members to shop elsewhere.”

AFT Massachusetts, a strong voice for collaborative education reform that is good for students and fair to educators, represents over 25,000 public school employees and higher education faculty and staff. The union is an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers and the AFL-CIO.

AFT Convention in Los Angeles – July 11-14 Fighting Back, Fighting Forward on Top Domestic Issues

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WASHINGTON—The American Federation of Teachers’ mid-July convention in Los Angeles will focus on fighting back and fighting forward on key domestic issues to reclaim the promise of America, including the Common Core State Standards, due process and tenure for educators, and investing public pension dollars for much-needed infrastructure projects.

The convention will take place July 11-14 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.

On July 10, the AFT will host a major community event at All Peoples Community Center in East Los Angeles, focusing on literacy, anti-hunger and health. In partnership with First Book, 10,000 free, new books will be distributed to disadvantaged children and their families, along with bags of groceries. Another set of 5,000 books will be delivered to the Los Angeles Food Bank, while hundreds of books also will be distributed at several other sites around East Los Angeles.

AFT conventions are policymaking events, with the more than 3,500 delegates discussing and voting on numerous resolutions, such as ensuring accountability for equity and excellence in public education; delinking the implementation of the Common Core standards from the consequences of high-stakes assessments; maintaining due process and tenure; creating a healthcare system that puts patient care above profits; and ending the reliance on a contingent academic labor system in higher education.

AFT President Randi Weingarten will give the keynote address on July 11, which will include some exciting announcements.

Delegates will hear from various lawmakers, policymakers and political candidates, including California Gov. Jerry Brown; Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti; U.S. Rep. Mark Takano (D-Calif.); U.S. Rep. Michael Honda (D-Calif.); and Tom Torlakson (California’s superintendent of public instruction). Appearing by video will be first lady Michelle Obama; Tom Wolf, Pennsylvania Democratic gubernatorial candidate; and Mary Burke, Wisconsin Democratic gubernatorial candidate. Former President Bill Clinton will appear by video to discuss the AFT’s work with the Clinton Global Initiative on the investment of public pension dollars for infrastructure projects.

In other notable sessions, delegates will hear from community members who have been deeply involved with local AFT affiliates on various issues and campaigns, including actress Cynthia Nixon and her wife, Christine Marinoni, from New York City, parent Helen Gym from Philadelphia, and student Asean Johnson and activist Jitu Brown from Chicago.

The AFT will live stream all general session speakers.

Reporters who will be covering the convention should contact Laura Pometto for hotel and credentialing information.

Highlights of the AFT 2014 convention:

Thursday, July 10        4 p.m. – 6 p.m.—Distribution of First Book books, groceries
All Peoples Community Center, 822 E. 20th St., Los Angeles

Friday, July 11            9:30 a.m.—Opening session
California Gov. Jerry Brown, greetings
AFT President Randi Weingarten, keynote address 1 p.m. – 2 p.m.
—Press availability with President Weingarten

Saturday, July 12        9:30 a.m.—General session
Speakers include Rep. Mark Takano, Superintendent Tom Torlakson, Mississippi Freedom Summer activist Mark Levy, Chicago student Asean Johnson, New York activist Zakiyah Ansari and Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti.

                                    2:30 p.m.—General session
Speakers include Cynthia Nixon and Christine Marinoni.

Sunday, July 13          10 a.m.—General session
Debate and vote on Common Core State Standards resolution and accountability resolution.
Discussion of Share My Lesson online lesson plans and First Book initiatives.
Announcement of winners of the AFT’s Prize for Solution-Driven Unionism and Innovation Fund grants.
Speaker: Rep. Michael Honda.

Monday, July 14         9 a.m.—General session
Officers’ election results announced.