Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Assembly Notes (11/18/09)

Proposed Assembly Notes (11/18/09)
By Andy Libson

Attendance: 45 - 50

The first thing to note about this Assembly is that it is the first Assembly to be publicized through the UESF E-Mail blast. It did not have a dramatic effect on attendance, but it is a direct result of the EDU resolution passed on the E-board and I think it is a step forward for making more of our members aware of the Assembly. Also, there were a number of new EDU members who came to the Assembly meeting and really made a difference on its outcome.

There were 5 resolutions discussed at the Assembly.

1) The Budget crisis: sticking with labor

2) Employee Free Choice Act

3) Representing UESF

4) For a Public Health Option

5) School Secretaries: Part of the Village

The first resolution “The Budget Crisis” was a curious resolution which said the “UESF will participate in and honor the democratic decision making process of the CFT and CTA” and “UESF will be in accord with the actions and positions adopted and promoted by…our affiliates.” On the surface, this seemed just a restatement of things UESF was already doing. In reality, it appears with the resolution Dennis and Co really hoped to get support for giving a "blank check" to the leadership of both the CTA/ CFT and therefore, have a policy which they could use against any local initiatives with which they disagreed (including the March 4th statewide action against budget cuts) .

Lita added an amendment which inserted language that UESF could also reserve the right to act independently is it chose to. The amendment passed overwhelmingly and if there was anything more pernicious than ‘restatement’ of union policy, it was neutralized by the amendment.

The next big discussion was the Resolution which again seemed a simple restatement of union constitution that “The UESF president shall be the official spokesperson for UESF…and shall be responsible for the representation of UESF whenever and wherever required…”. “Therefore UESF members whose representation at non-affiliated bodies is designated by the president shall speak on behalf of the union.”

At the Executive Board, EDU members saw the potential for this to have a chilling effect on members feeling free to speak in forums outside the Executive Board and Assembly. Lisa added an amendment encouraging members “to speak as individual if they chose”.

At the Assembly, Linda Plack affirmed the overall intent of the resolution to get UESF to “speak with one voice”. Adrienne (from EDU) spoke against the resolution and essentially affirmed that there were indeed debates within the union and differences of opinion about how to fight the budget cuts and we should not be afraid of that and not seek to silence UESF voices in any forum. Secondly, based on the Executive Board, there was some indication that the resolution had been produced in response to socialist conference flier that had mistakenly not clearly identified Adrienne as a “member of UESF”. Adrienne acknowledged the mistake made on the flier (despite other publicity having made the designation) and said it would be a simpler matter to just pick up the phone and call her and tell her to fix the mistake. The need to produce a resolution was unnecessary overkill. Other EDU members spoke to the same effect and said this resolution seemed unnecessary and even a little petty. Ken Tray said this resolution was not inspired by the mistaken socialist conference flier but was merely a restatement of UESF policy that he and the other authors (Linda Plack, Susan Soloman, et al) had intended to introduce anyway.

Most interesting, was that after Adrienne spoke no real effort was made to vigorously defend the resolution by other Executive Board authors. The resolution failed 16 – 19.

Last, Dennis Kelly announced that UESF Executive Board had given $1000 to NUHW (National Health Care Workers), the legitimate representative of 1000s of health care workers that SEIU is very undemocratically looking to get control of by marginalizing the elected leadership and replacing them with appointed representatives. He also talked about SEIU had actually picketed UESF’s attempt to support NUHW. Dennis reported that SEIU was getting increasingly belligerent and controlling and even went so far to toss eggs at UTLA (United Teachers of Las Angeles) who intended to show similar support to NUHW.

EDU has criticisms of the PLC leadership, but here the action of Dennis Kelly and Executive Board leaders is great. It is not an easy thing for a union to take a stand in a seemingly internal union fight. UESF is doing that and that is excellent. We need to support all rank and file unions when possible. Secondly, Dennis was explicitly critical of SEIU’s lack of democracy and bottom-up organizing and SEIU’s move to a top-down corporate model. Dennis Kelly’s leadership on this issue has to be acknowledged and supported by EDU and by all UESF members.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Report from Oct.24 Conference

by Aaron Neimark

This historic conference held on Saturday, October 24th at UC Berkeley had approximately 800 attendees from across the sate of California. Participants represented pre-K-12, community colleges, University of California, California State Universities, (faculty and students alike) parents, community members, and other workers. The conference was planned on the heels of the September 24th walkouts at 10 different UC campuses.

Representatives from CFT attended and had
a table at the conference, members of Oakland Educators Association, Berkeley Federation of Teachers, California Faculty Association, AFT, UESF, the SF Labor Council, and many more also participated.

The opening remarks from graduate students, university workers, and teachers focused on the theme of unity in the face of devastating state budget cuts. The conference’s main purpose was stressed: To discuss, debate, and decide on statewide proposals from various breakout groups (Pre-K-12, Community Colleges, UC’s, CSU’s)

During the breakout groups (I participated in the Pre-K-12 group) different ideas were discussed in terms of organizing at the school site level, and in the larger context of districts and cities. Different proposals were made but
a single day of action across the state gained the most traction. Different dates were discussed relating to layoff notices, release of budgets, etc.

When the groups reconvened in the main hall the breakout groups reported what they had discussed and
a discussion about these occurred. After hearing different sides to various proposals, a day of action across California was agreed upon by an overwhelming majority. Campuses, schools, organizations, unions would decided what this day would look like and what it would entail. A March on Sacramento, walkouts, giving out information at schools, rallies, a single day strike, were some of the ideas. The date of March 4th was voted on because of the proximity to layoff notices and that the date is far enough away to allow time for organizing.

a union activist and teacher I was inspired by this conference. I had many great conversations with teachers and union activists. Sitting next to me was a professor from Sac State and member CFA. As we talked about the problems that “WE” are facing in public education, I thought about how rare this was. What a unique opportunity to see this as one big struggle.


A democratic union that functions with transparency.
1. Membership will have active oversight of bargaining.
2. The bargaining team will be accountable - making regular reports to the Executive Board and Assembly, seeking membership input and direction.
3. All changes in workday, wages and benefits will be voted on by the full membership. We will have open and thorough discussion on any changes in dues: where the money will go, how it will benefit members.
4. All resolutions passed and minutes taken during Executive Board and Assembly Meetings will be posted in a timely manner on the UESF website.

A union that defends the rights of ALL its members.
1. We believe in equal rights to pay increases for paraprofessionals, substitutes, child development and K-12 teachers.
2. Union leadership will spend more time in the school and work sites finding out what members concerns are and taking action.
3. We seek to defend and expand the number of paraprofessionals working in SFUSD.
4. Protect teachers from subjective evaluations.

Social justice for all: educators, families and students.
1. We will engage in dialogue with families about a long-range vision for public education and what education could look like.
2. We oppose the attempts to reintroduce JROTC to our schools. We will be active participants in the antiwar movement.
3. We will defend the rights of all immigrant families to live and work in San Francisco free of harassment from ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement).
4. We oppose school closings.

Empowering members at their school sites.
1. Union leadership will visit school sites and take an active approach to building strong UBCs.
2. Real reform starts at the school sites--- not at 555 Franklin. Encourage members to take action where they work to improve education and working conditions.
3. We will lead and encourage discussions on issues that matter to our membership in addition to the contract--- pedagogy, school climate and discipline, building community-school relationships, etc.
4. We absolutely oppose using test scores alone to measure the success of students or educators –- Rewrite ESEA(Elementary and Secondary Education Act) and end NCLB (No Child Left Behind).

The defense of public education and the public sector through progressive taxation.
1. We will build relationships and emphasize strategic actions with other unions and public sector stakeholders to build and fund a new vision for social justice and equity.
2. We will work to change how schools are funded and fight to transform Prop 13 to adequately fund public schools and social services.
3. No merit pay! We will fight to stop the privatization of any aspect of public schools and help existing charter
schools to unionize.