“Support and energize the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) for the work that needs to be done,” Larissa Pahomov. On Friday, March 28 the Working Educator’s Caucus hosted a launch party at Saint Stephen’s Green on 1701 Green Street at 4:30 pm. Approximately 150 PFT members, advocates, and supporters came out. Representative Curtis Thomas who supported the nurses was also in attendance engaging in discussion and conversation. The energy in the room was undeniable and the following words circulated the space: Energize, support, actualization of power, proactive, and social justice. “This top-down approach does not work. The ones that are with the kids each day are not being included in the conversation and teachers are the best resource. Rank and file knows what the kids go through and what they need. Our desire is to get more participation from working educators,” passionately said by Kristin Luebbert, one of the organizers.
The launch was extended to allow time for the building representatives to attend after the scheduled PFT meeting that discussed the Declaratory Judgment from the PA Supreme Court that is being sought from the School District. A sheet was circulated throughout the evening with the details surrounding this newest challenge from the School District that was initiated and supported by the School Reform Commission. “In short, the District is attempting to use the PA Supreme Court in an attempt to assert their authority to upend the Contract and disregard the Collective Bargaining Process.” Building representatives shared additional information at the launch party.
Many PFT members want to participate in a more democratic union process that includes more conversation between leadership and rank and file members.
According to the Association for Union Democracy, the development of a caucus is the “best ways to organize for democracy, member control and reform of your union.” At the sign in table, everyone received a copy of Class Action, a project of Jacobin magazine and the Chicago Teachers Union’s CORE Caucus, an Activists Teacher’s Handbook. Sign-up sheets for regional discussion groups were also available. Facilitated discussions around the book and the purpose of a caucus will be held in Center City, Fisthown, Northeast, West Philly and South Philly on April 21, 22, 24, and 25th. A downloadable copy of the book and schedule can be found here.
The following individuals came together to organize the Caucus of Working Educators: Kristin Luebbert, Amy Roat, Eileen Duffey, Andrew Saltz, Kelley Collings, Max Rosen-Long, Peggy Savage, Anissa Weinraub, David Hersel, Sheila Myers, Lou Borda, and Larissa Pahamov. The first ever citywide caucus meeting is Tuesday, April 29 (Location and time can be found at the website). RSVP online at workingeducators.org.2
Andrew Saltz expressed it best, “It is not what that union can do for us but what can our union do.” “If we don’t do this together we won’t survive,” Tatiana Olmedo. “The future of the public education and the union is at stake. If we don’t actualize power of the largest union in the city with intellect, ideas, push-back, and energy…” (Larissa Pahamov).
Fill in the blank by participating in membership and the education surrounding a democratic tool that is already being effectively utilized in Chicago and New York. “You are not alone. You have a network,” Kristin Luebbert. The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers now has a partner, the Caucus of Working Educators, and they are committed to energizing all members into active democratic participation in order for public education to not be dismantled and/or eviscerated.
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