Tuesday, March 3, 2020

WE Caucus makes inroads in Philadelphia Teacher Union Election Against President Jordan but the AFT Machine Still Prevails with big majority

Longtime teachers’ union president Jerry Jordan will hold on to his leadership post after fending off a challenge from an increasingly vocal and consequential caucus within the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers... Philadelphia Inquirer
The trend within teacher unions for more militant action bodes well for WE and caucuses like it. But in Philadelphia at least, it’s delayed by four years.... Mike Antonucci, Intercepts
March 3, 2020 - 4PM I'm watching a live feed on FB of Nancy Pelosi on the education bill with Randi standing next to her. Standing with them is newly elected Philly union president Jerry Jordan who just defeated the left WE caucus in the election last week. Hmmm. No Alex Caputo-Pearl who led a successful strike as president of the UTLA and was just elected VP after yielding to Cecily Myart-Cruz has been elected president of UTLA, the first biracial Black woman elected to lead the union in its 50-year history. UTLA, the 2nd largest union in the AFT after the UFT. Or Jessy Sharkey, president of the Chicago TU, the third largest local which was leaning Bernie but due to some Warren support did not endorse? (Randi endorsed Warren over the weekend- a political play since Mulgrew is running as a Biden delegate and we know they are on the same page. In other words, I see this as a shot at the left. (I wonder if WE pushed for an endorsement of Bernie as we saw MORE members under the guise of Labor for Bernie do in the UFT?)

I remember at the 2014 AFT convention in LA, a workshop was set up for Alex Caputo-Pearl and then Chicago union president Karen Lewis to discuss progressive unionism and Randi forced them to include Mulgrew and Jerry Jordan as part of the panel. I taped it but never published that very interesting debate. Alex and Karen were bulldozed by Randi.

Since I always look for conspiracy theories I see the Jordan presence as a slam at the left by Randi.

Anyway, here is some info on what happened in Philly where WE (Caucus of Working Educators) ran its 2nd campaign and doubled their vote from last time. I got to know WE people years ago when we hung out with them in LA before they were even a caucus and they were strong social justice people but with a real feel for the members. I liked a lot of them.

WE is affiliated with rising left wing opposition in the AFT through UCORE where elections were won in Baltimore recently - see my report: Why Can't MORE B more like BMORE? - Radical Teachers’ Movement Comes to Baltimore where I contrasted these rising movements with the failures of MORE in NYC. Look at the WE platform as described in the Inquirer story for an explanation.
The progressive group’s platform centered on empowering PFT members to have more of a say in the operation of their union, and on holding open contract negotiations with the district. It promised to fight for higher wages for paraprofessionals, better environmental conditions, and smaller class sizes. WE members have criticized the current PFT regime as too bureaucratic and slow to respond to members’ concerns, and not active enough on issues of social justice.
Last time WE focused on social justice - note the concentration on bread and butter. MORE fundamentally ignores the day to day issues UFT members face. MORE, by the way, ran a fundraiser for WE a few weeks ago. Look at the excellent WE web site: https://www.workingeducators.org/

And it is pretty interesting that WE, which was inspired by MORE in 2015 to form a caucus got almost 40% of the vote in its second run for office while MORE was destroyed in the 2019 UFT elections in its third run for office. [I have lots to say about why but will have to do that another time.] I believe if the undemocratic socialists hadn't blown up MORE we would have been able to push into the one third range by running a strong united front campaign. But that game is over for a long time.

Here is a fairly sympathetic article towards WE in the Inquirer and a more skeptical article by the right wing Mike Antonucci. I land somewhere between the two because Jerry Jordan is a weak union leader and Philly teachers have been slammed and he still got 62% of the vote. The turnout was tremendous - 60%, up from 44% in the last election in 2016, which accounts for the doubling of the WE vote from last time.
Compare that to the meager turnout in UFT elections - half that or less.

Still, 62% is not insignificant but we've always maintained that it is within striking range and if WE keeps organizing and doesn't make the same mistakes as MORE they may be serious contenders in 4 years. Or not, given the methods the UFT-like machines use to maintain control --- see above for Jerry Jordan appearance on the stage with Randi and Pelosi.

Philadelphia teachers’ union president Jerry Jordan fends off challengers, but progressives make gains


https://www.inquirer.com/education/pft-philadelphia-teachers-union-jerry-jordan-caucus-of-working-educators-we-election-leadership-20200226.html


Philadelphia teachers’ union president Jerry Jordan fends off challengers, but progressives make gains
Jonathan Wilson
Longtime teachers’ union president Jerry Jordan will hold on to his leadership post after fending off a challenge from an increasingly vocal and consequential caucus within the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.

Organizing by the Caucus of Working Educators fueled strong turnout in the election, whose results were announced Wednesday.
The results are especially weighty given the PFT’s outsized role in the city’s political landscape. The union plays a crucial oversight role in the Philadelphia School District’s unfolding asbestos crisis, and it is negotiating the first contract since the union won back the right to strike with the district returning to local control in 2018.
Jordan’s slate, known as the Collective Bargaining Team, appeared to win 62% of the vote, with the early tally 4,453 to 2,761. Split-ticket votes have not yet been counted, but the early results made clear that most of the union’s 13,000 members favored Jordan’s steady hand, track record, and collaborative working style.
Jordan, who has led the PFT since 2007 and has worked for the union full time since 1987, said he was “delighted” by the results, which came on his 71st birthday.

"Our nearly 13,000 members are passionate, dedicated, and engaged, and working with them daily is one of the great honors of my life,” Jordan said in a statement. “The campaign was spirited, and it allowed us the opportunity to organize around a vision for public education that resonated with our membership.”
Nearly 60% of the PFT’s 13,000 teachers, counselors, nurses, secretaries, and paraprofessional workers cast ballots, up from 46% in 2016, the first time WE opposed Jordan’s leadership.

The Caucus of Working Educators, whose slate was topped by Kathleen Melville, a teacher at the Workshop School, a high school in West Philadelphia, made a stronger showing than it did in 2016, the last time it challenged Jordan’s leadership.

The progressive group’s platform centered on empowering PFT members to have more of a say in the operation of their union, and on holding open contract negotiations with the district. It promised to fight for higher wages for paraprofessionals, better environmental conditions, and smaller class sizes. WE members have criticized the current PFT regime as too bureaucratic and slow to respond to members’ concerns, and not active enough on issues of social justice.
WE, part of a wave of young people turning to organized labor as a way to make change, comes out of a tradition of the rank-and-file educators who have taken over unions in Chicago, Los Angeles, and Baltimore. These are cities where union leaders have taken their members on massive, high-profile strikes — with significant public support — that reminded the country that unions are still a force to be reckoned with.
The Caucus of Working Educators’ campaign is part of a trend of rank-and-file challenges to the union establishment, as legacy unions have languished around the country. Union members — from journalists to UPS package handlers to truck drivers — have challenged veteran leadership, which they accuse of being too complacent and too cozy with management to fight for workers.
Melville, 37, congratulated Jordan and his team and said in a statement that WE looked forward “to continuing to push for a more engaged and empowered PFT membership together.”
The caucus’ stronger showing, she said, made it plain that “Working Educators’ vision has resonated with thousands of educators across the city."
Jordan, in an interview, said WE’s campaign “was a very serious challenge," but said that its platform “was very similar to the platform my caucus had” — focused on working conditions and meaningful wage increases.
WE members’ views will certainly have a place during negotiations, said Jordan, adding that so far only a few bargaining sessions have been held. The PFT president expects that the pace of talks will now accelerate.
So far, Jordan said, the talks have been “very professional.”
Now the Antonucci take:

Incumbent Holds Off Opposition in Philadelphia Union Election

http://www.eiaonline.com/intercepts/2020/02/27/incumbent-holds-off-opposition-in-philadelphia-union-election/

On the heels of this story about a long-time incumbent union president being challenged by some members of his rank-and-file comes the election for officers of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.
Jerry Jordan has been president of PFT since 2007, but he faced strongly organized opposition from Kathleen Melville and her Caucus of Working Educators (WE).
WE wants to reverse PFT’s decline. It claims that membership has shrunk by 40%, from 21,000 to 13,000.
Turnout was high for a union election, with more than half of eligible members casting ballots. The final results have not yet been certified, but Jordan emerged as the clear winner, with somewhere between 60-66% of the vote.
The outcome was bittersweet for WE, which more than doubled its vote totals from four years ago and emerged as a force to be reckoned with. However, even as the caucus improved turnout, it couldn’t cobble together something closer to a majority.
WE is similar to other opposition caucuses throughout American Federation of Teachers affiliates in that it wants a more muscular approach to collective bargaining and a social justice focus. The caucus has received credit for demanding open contract negotiations, instead of the closed-door bargaining between district and union officers that is standard practice throughout the U.S.
But a closer look reveals that WE’s call for openness extends only to more members of the PFT. The caucus wants one member from each school to be present at the table, not the public.
The trend within teacher unions for more militant action bodes well for WE and caucuses like it. But in Philadelphia at least, it’s delayed by four years.
Mike's last comment is ridiculous. What does he mean that the public should be at the table? Unions are not public agencies. Let the city bring in the public if it wants.

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