Archives for category: Unions

There has been a powerful backlash against the AFT’s decision to endorse Hillary Clinton. Social media are humming with teacher doubts about the polls (“no one called me or anyone I know” is a typical conment) and frustration about the process. Supporters of Bernie Sanders were angry as well.

See here and here.

On principle, I never get involved in union decisionmaking. I am not a member.

What matters most ultimately is to pick the strongest candidate. Who will appoint the next two or three members of the Supreme Court? Jeb Bush? Scott Walker? Donald Trump? Chris Christie? Hillary Clinton? Bernie Sanders?

The American Federation of Teachers sent questionnaires to all the candidates. Three responded: Hillary Clinton, Martin O’Malley, and Bernie Sanders. I previously posted Sanders’ responses. Here is Hillary’s.

Candidate questionnaire: Hillary Rodham Clinton
Today, almost 50 million students attend our nation’s public schools. Along with their parents, communities, teachers, paraprofessionals and other school employees, these students have been forced to live under test—and-punish policies that include sanctions and school closings, high-stakes assessments, and federalized teacher evaluations that are counterproductive and have taken the joy out of teaching and learning.
Q. What is your view of the current version of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (also
known as the No Child Left Behind Act)? What changes, if any, would you make to the law, and
why? Please include positions on:
• The federal government’s role in ensuring equity and access to resources for all children;
• The role of standards, assessments and accountability in public education;
• Ensuring that all students have access to a broad curriculum that includes art and music,
as well as science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM);
• Professional development for school staff; and
• Community schools.

HRC: I have been working to improve and support our public schools for decades. Throughout my
career I have worked to ensure that every child reaches his or her full potential, and I know a
quality education is essential to reach that goal. When I was First Lady of Arkansas, I chaired
the Arkansas Educational Standards Commission where I worked to raise standards for
Arkansas’ schools, increase teacher salaries, and lower class size. I continued in this effort as
First Lady of the United States and as a Senator, working throughout my career to provide
dedicated resources and support to teachers and to recruit, support, and retain more outstanding
teachers. We need to attract a whole new generation to teaching because it is critical that our
students have well-prepared and well-supported teachers.

When the No Child Left Behind Act was enacted, I viewed it as a historic promise between the
federal government and educators. I hoped that it would lead to a greater sense of shared
responsibility for our schools’ success. Unfortunately, that promise was largely broken because
schools struggled to meet the mandates imposed by the law and the implementation at the federal
level was problematic.

I applaud Senator Patty Murray and Senator Lamar Alexander for coming together in a
bipartisan fashion to unanimously pass the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 out of the Senate
Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee to reauthorize NCLB. I believe this bill
addresses some of the real challenges with NCLB while retaining our commitment to high
academic standards, and to assessments that give parents and teachers the information they need
to know how students are performing and if and where they need help to improve. I believe that
this bill will correct for some of the real challenges that schools and communities experienced in
implementing the law and will ensure that principals, educators and local communities are lifted
up as full partners and innovators in improving public education. I also applaud the forward-
looking investments in education contained in the bill, including a new commitment to improving
early learning.One of the issues that I am most concerned about is testing. Tests are intended to provide parents and educators with an understanding of how well kids are learning. Having that
understanding is crucial. And it is important to remember that testing provides communities with
full information about how our low-income students and students of color are doing in
comparison to other groups so that we can continue to improve our educational system for all

But I understand the frustration many parents and educators feel about tests. Teachers and
parents alike are concerned about the amount of time being spent on test preparation, and worry
that children are missing out on the most valuable experience in the classroom– a teacher
sparking a student’s curiosity and love for learning.

So I am mindful that we need to find the right balance—and that starts with bringing parents
and educators back into this conversation about how we ensure a robust and engaging
curriculum that engages students in the love of learning rather than narrowing our schools to
focus primarily on test preparation.

I do think that Senators Murray and Alexander struck the right balance in the Every Child
Achieves Act by continuing to maintain the federal requirement for annual statewide testing in
grades 3-8, but ensuring that accountability for improving schools will be based on multiple
measures of performance. And I think it will be critical for states and communities to continue to
strike the right balance and not layer test upon test. There must be room for invigorating
teaching and learning in the classroom.

Q. Do you support any of the current reauthorization proposals under consideration in the 114th

HRC: I applaud Senator Patty Murray and Senator Lamar Alexander for coming together in a
bipartisan fashion to unanimously pass the Every Child Achieves Act of 2015 out of the Senate
Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee to reauthorize NCLB.

Q. What role do you think the federal government can play in providing access to early childhood
education? What specific policy proposals would your administration pursue?

HRC: I believe we need to improve access to quality child care and early learning opportunities for all
children. Every child, regardless of parental income, deserves access to high-quality pre-K. I
think any discussion of improving our public schools must include universal access to pre-
kindergarten. I believe we can start to close the achievement gap by investing in programs that
increase children’s school readiness and academic preparation while making it easier for
parents to balance their responsibilities at work with their responsibilities to their children. We
know children’s brains develop more rapidly at this time in their lives than at any other and that
high quality interventions make a real difference in the outcomes of children from low-income
families. . In the months ahead, I look forward to laying out a significant agenda to improve
early learning in our country.

I have been highlighting the importance of early childhood education for more than forty years.
As First Lady of Arkansas, I helped bring the Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool
Youngsters Program (HIPPY) to Arkansas. As First Lady, I hosted the first White House
conference on early learning and the brain, championed the program “Prescription for
Reading,” in which pediatricians provided free books for new mothers to read to their infants as
their brains were rapidly developing, and supported the Administration’s work to create Early
Head Start, which reaches children from birth to age three throughout country. As Senator, I co-
sponsored the Education Begins at Home Act, which expands the Parents as Teachers program
and other quality programs of early childhood home visitation. As a leader at the Clinton
Foundation, I led a national initiative called “Too Small to Fail” aimed at supporting parents to
improve vocabulary and brain development in the early years to close the “word gap” and
better prepare children for school. As President, I will continue my lifelong work to expand
early childhood and parent education programs.

Q. What are your views on private school vouchers, tuition tax credits, and charter school
accountability and transparency?

HRC: I strongly oppose voucher schemes because they divert precious resources away from financially
strapped public schools to private schools that are not subject to the same accountability
standards or teacher quality standards. It would be harmful to our democracy if we dismantled
our public school system through vouchers, and there is no evidence that doing so would
improve outcomes for children.

Charters should be held to the same standards, and to the same level of accountability and
transparency to which traditional public schools are held. This includes the requirements of civil
rights laws. They can innovate and help improve educational practices. But I also believe that
we must go back to the original purpose of charter schools. Where charters are succeeding, we
should be doing more to ensure that their innovations can be widely disseminated throughout
our traditional public school system. Where they are failing, they should be closed.

Access to an affordable and high-quality system of public higher education is critical to the
health of the nation—both to ensure that students reach their fullest potential, and to
enable the United States to continue to develop as a just society, a vibrant democracy and a
land of economic opportunity.

Q. Escalating tuition and fees are leading to a growing number of students leaving college with
overwhelming debt from student loans. This burden of rising costs and rising debt makes access
to higher education increasingly difficult for many students and their families. What is the role of
the federal government in ensuring that higher education is affordable and accessible?

HRC: First, too many young people are struggling under the burden of student debt and too many
families are struggling to pay the rising cost of college. Second, too many students are starting
but never completing college, which means they leave with debt but no degree. I will be offering
my own ideas for how to make college more affordable, how to make sure no one graduates with
crushing debt, and how to hold colleges accountable to help more students graduate. Among
other things, we have to do more to link student loan repayments to income and to help people
refinance their loans. And we have to think about both four-year colleges and community
colleges. I support President Obama’s free community college proposal. I will be talking about
ways to reduce the burdens on those entering four-year colleges too, as well as those who are
out in the world trying to start a business or a family. I intend to introduce significant proposals
on these subjects in the weeks and months ahead.

Q. There has been a nationwide pattern of disinvestment in public higher education such that per-
student funding dropped 26.1 percent between 1990 and 2010. What would your administration
do to remedy this?

HRC: State budget cuts are a primary cause of tuition increases at public universities and reversing
this trend is key to making college more affordable. That’s why I will make incentivizing
increased state funding of higher education a priority, and explore ways to make sure that the
federal government is actively partnering and working with states to address the problem of
college affordability.

Q. Career and technical education programs help ensure that postsecondary credentials and skills
are accessible to all—a necessity in today’s economy. In your view, what is the role of the
federal government in supporting high-quality CTE programs?

HRC: In the months ahead, I will lay out my ideas for a comprehensive proposal to train millions more
workers over the next decade. I am exploring a number of options to incentivize GTE programs
and help provide grants to train workers for the 21st century economy.

Q. What is the federal government’s role in requiring appropriate transparency and accountability
of for-profit institutions?

HRC: We have to do a lot more to protect students and families from unscrupulous institutions and
abusive debt servicers. There are a lot of non-traditional students who want to go back to school
to improve their lives, but don’t have access to much information or support to figure out how
best to do that. Money and time are both tight, with a lot of them trying to juggle family, jobs,
and school all at the same time. So they’re particularly vulnerable to exploitation and

All students need more guidance in making decisions about where to go to school. We should
protect them from institutions that will almost certainly not serve them well. The government
should stop funding colleges where almost no one graduates and where most students
accumulate a lot of debt but can’t get the jobs that would allow them to repay their loans. In the
months ahead, I will be laying out specific ideas and proposals on how to increase
accountability in the for-profit sector.

Having a high-quality healthcare system in the United States is a moral imperative, an
economic necessity and a fundamental right for all. Underpinning this right is a healthcare
system that reflects the needs of the patients, providers and community.

Q. What are your views of the Affordable Care Act? What changes would you make, if any, to
the ACA, including the excise tax on high-cost plans and the provisions on shared responsibility
for employers?

HRC: Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more than 16 million Americans have gained new coverage.
The reduction in the uninsured rate across the country has been staggering, down to roughly
12% for adults.

These statistics translate into real change in people’s lives. Families who no longer have to face
the threat of bankruptcy because of catastrophic health care costs. Parents who now have health
care when only their children were covered before. Women can no longer be charged higher
rates solely because of their gender. People with preexisting conditions can no longer be denied
coverage. Americans can make the leap of changing jobs or starting a business without
worrying about whether they’ll still be able to buy insurance — because now they know they can
purchase it on the marketplace. So this is a real accomplishment we should be proud of

As with any piece of major legislation, it’s not perfect and would benefit from updates and fixes.
One area of the ACA that I am examining is the so-called “Cadillac” tax. As currently
structured, I worry that it may create an incentive to substantially lower the value of the benefits
package and shift more and more costs to consumers. As President, I would work to ensure that
our tax code appropriately advances the health care interests of lower-income and middle class

We also need to take steps beyond the ACA. We should crack down on the drug companies that
charge too much and the insurance companies that offer too little. And we need to tackling
rising out-of-pocket health care costs for consumers across the board.

Q. Do you support initiatives designed to move health insurance coverage away from an
employer-based model? If so, what would you propose as an alternative to the current system for
covering working adults?

HRC: I’ve long believed that progress on health care is only possible if there is a principle of shared
responsibility among every major actor in our health care system. Employers have always
played a critical role in ensuring working families have access to coverage — in fact more than
96% of firms with 50 or more employees already offer health insurance.

Q. Many licensed healthcare professionals, particularly RNs, are leaving hospital service
because of difficult working conditions, including excessive and unsafe workloads, understaffing
and mandatory overtime. What would you do to address these problems and to improve
recruitment and retention of nurses and other healthcare professionals?

HRC: I know that we must address the nursing shortage in this country and give nurses the training,
education, and support they need to provide the care patients deserve. We need appropriate
nurse-to-patient ratios in order to improve patient care and working conditions for nurses.
I have a history of working for America’s nurses. As Senator, I was proud to champion
provisions in the Nurse Reinvestment Act that provided significant resources to recruit and train
nurses, and I introduced the Nursing Education and Quality of Health Care Act.

I believe it is important that all American employees are safe and protected where they work In
particular, I believe that we need to consider the effects of ergonomic hazards in order to quickly
and effectively address musculoskeletal disorders in the workplace. I know that this is a problem
for nurses, who often suffer from back-related injuries as a result of having to move and lift

Q. Merger and acquisition activity continues to consolidate the U.S. healthcare system into the
hands of a few corporations, many of which are for-profit. What would you do to ensure
competition in the healthcare industry is fair and protects the American consumer?

HRC: The federal government plays a critical role in evaluating and enforcing health care mergers to
ensure that they do not stymie competition, burdening consumers with fewer choices and higher
prices. Anti-competitive and costly market consolidation in health care or other markets should
not be permitted. While the Affordable Care Act created incentives for providers to better
coordinate care and pass those savings onto consumers, we need to make sure that acquisitions
and integration of health care stakeholders will ultimately lower cost growth and increase
quality of care. To that end, in addition to providing necessary guidance to health care providers
about appropriate and beneficial ways to better integrate their services, the Federal Trade
Commission (FTC) should be funded and directed to be ever-vigilant in halting anti-competitive
health care arrangements through robust enforcement.

Q. What would you do to ensure that communities have access to public health services?

HRC: I believe we must take full advantage of the movement from volume to value purchasing of health
care to encourage much more of a focus on the value of prevention and the imperative of
population health. My record shows my dedication to this issue. As Senator, I led a bipartisan
coalition to fight for legislation to combat childhood obesity, helped pass legislation to provide
extra funding for flu vaccine and proposed legislation that would raise public awareness and
speed up production of the vaccine, and proposed legislation to combat diabetes, asthma and
HIV/AIDS. As the chairperson of the Superfund and Environmental Health Subcommittee of the
Environmental and Public Works Committee, I held the first-ever congressional hearing on
environmental justice, bringing much-needed attention to the fact that certain environmental
conditions cause health problems, which is often the case in low-income or underserved
communities. Following the enactment of the Affordable Care Act, providers are being more
appropriately rewarded on their success in ensuring wellness and good health and not on
unnecessary, wasteful, expensive and, all-too-frequently, dangerous health care interventions.
By focusing on prevention and the necessity of population health, we have a real opportunity to
finally make long-overdue inroads in the public’s health.

An administration’s economic policy has far-reaching implications for the United States
and the world. It also says a great deal about a president’s priorities and general
philosophy about the federal government’s responsibility to its citizens.

Q. What are your priorities for revitalizing the economy, strengthening the middle class,
creating jobs and ensuring fair taxation? How would your plan help restore funding for
education, healthcare, transportation, public safety and many other services provided to our

HRC: I want to make being middle-class mean something again. I’m going to take on four big fights in
this campaign: (1) building an economy for tomorrow, instead of yesterday; (2) strengthening
our families and communities; (3) fixing our broken political system; (4) protecting our country
from threats.

I will lay out a number of new ideas over the course of the campaign, including helping small
businesses create jobs, making college more affordable, raising workers’ wages and reducing
cost pressures on families, balancing work and family, helping workers get the skills they need to
get ahead in a changing economy, and making sure all our kids have the chance to live up to
their God-given potential.

Q. The United States has a $3.2 trillion infrastructure deficit according to the American Society
of Civil Engineers—and that’s just for repairs. What are the mechanisms (e.g., public, private,
infrastructure bank) through which we can fund the rebuilding of this country, including the
necessary renovation and modernization of our public schools, hospitals and public buildings?

HRC: Ordinary Americans can’t afford failing to invest in our infrastructure. If we don’t repair our
roads and bridges, and upgrade our infrastructure for the 21st Century, it’s harder for
Americans to get to work, and for our businesses to grow and compete. It’s time for us to invest
in America. That means Congress must make the investments we need in our roads and
highways and that means leveraging investment by the private sector as well. I will be laying out
my own proposals on how to leverage both public and private sources of funding and creative
financing mechanisms to address America’s infrastructure needs.

Q. What would your administration do to build and strengthen retirement security for all
working men and women, including protecting employees’ pensions? What is your plan for
sustaining and strengthening Social Security and Medicare?

HRC: Let me start by saying I’ve fought to defend Social Security for years, including when the Bush
Administration tried to privatize it. We need to keep defending it from attacks and enhance it to
meet new realities. I’m especially focused on the fact that we need to improve how Social
Security works for women. I also want to enhance benefits for our most vulnerable seniors. We
need to reject years of Republican myth-making that claims we cannot afford it and that the only
solution must therefore be to cut benefits.

I will continue to oppose Republican efforts that seek to privatize or gut Medicare.

We need a broader strategy to help Americans with their retirement security. I will have ideas
on that.

Q. What are your views on the privatization and contracting out of public services, including
school services and state and local government services?

HRC: I do not believe that we should be contracting, outsourcing, or privatizing work that is inherently
governmental in nature, including school services and state and local government services. In
the Senate, I helped secure a measure that became law that blocked the Bush administration
from downsizing the Federal Protective Service. I cosponsored legislation to protect city and
rural letter carriers from having their work contracted out by the U.S. Postal Service to private
firms and individuals. Lastly, I was an original cosponsor of the Honest Leadership and
Accountability in Contracting Act.

Labor unions give workers a collective voice in the workplace and are integral to the social
and economic health of our country. AFT members are interested in knowing your views
on the role of labor unions.

Q. Current federal laws and policies encourage and promote collective bargaining through the
National Labor Relations Act. What are your views on collective bargaining for the private and
public sectors? What is your view regarding agency fee and so-called right-to-work laws?

HRC: The right to organize is one of our most fundamental human rights. I believe that unions are
critical to a strong American middle class. Throughout my career, I have stood with all workers
as they exercise their right to organize and bargain collectively and was an original co-sponsor
of the Employee Free Choice Act. I’m talking to a lot of labor leaders and labor economists
about what the next president can do to support 21′ century organizing and collective

Q. As president, what would you do to: (a) prevent employers from intimidating and harassing
workers who support union representation, (b) ensure that workers are free to organize and
bargain in the workplace, and (c) protect the rights of American workers?

HRC: Throughout my career, I have stood with all workers as they exercise their right to organize and
bargain collectively and am an original co-sponsor of the Employee Free Choice Act. I actively
opposed anti-collective bargaining provisions contained in the Department of Defense’s
proposed National Security Personnel System and have voted in favor of collective bargaining
rights for TSA screeners. It is also vital that we modernize basic labor standards. Worker
protections and basic labor standards have failed to keep pace with changes over the past half
century. We need to raise wages and reduce poverty among working families, including raising
the minimum wage, eradicating wage theft, promoting collective bargaining, updating overtime
protections, ensuring that employers do not misclassify, true employees as “independent
contractors” to skirt their obligations, and leveling the playing field for women and people of

Q. The federal government has direct responsibility for setting labor standards. There has been a
growing call for changes to those standards, including paid sick days, paid family leave and
higher minimum wages. What changes, if any, would you prioritize?

Experience shows that policies that are good for middle-class families are good for everyone—including businesses. These policies are pro-growth, and pro-family, and that’s a pretty good

HRC: It is long past time for the U.S. to join every other nation in the developed world in having paid
leave, which is critical to ensuring that workers do not have to choose between caring for their
family and keeping a job. I’m not under any illusions that this will be easy. We had to fight for
years to pass the unpaid Family and Medical Leave Act, and the day my husband signed that law
was a day I’ll never forget. I look forward to talking about how we move forward on this.

I have fought to raise the minimum wage for many years, and I strongly support the fast food
workers and others who are out there asking for a living wage and a fair shot at success. A
higher minimum wage doesn’t just help those at the bottom of the pay scale, it has a ripple effect
across the economy and helps millions of American workers and middle class families. As we
work to raise the federal minimum wage, we should also support state and local efforts to go
above the federal floor where it makes sense to do so.

Q. More than 8 million public employees in 25 states currently have no OSHA protection or
entitlement to a safe and healthful workplace. Do you support universal OSHA coverage for all
public employees?

HRC: I believe it is important that American employees are safe and protected where they work In the
decades since OSHA has been enacted, we’ve made great strides in strengthening the safety of
work environments for our workers. But there are improvements that need to be made. In
particular, too few workers are protected by OSHA. That’s why in the Senate I was an original
cosponsor of the Protecting America’s Workers Act, which would extend OSHA protections to all
federal, state, and local public employees.

The AFT and our members are champions of fairness; democracy; economic opportunity;
and high-quality public education, healthcare and public services for our students, their
families and our communities. We are committed to advancing these principles through
community engagement. Our members are interested in knowing your views on the
following important community issues:

Q. What policies would your administration pursue to ensure that all people—regardless of who
they are, where they live or where they come from—are able to climb the ladder of opportunity
and participate fully in our economy and democracy?

HRC: Today, there are nearly 6 million young people in America who are out of school and out of
work The unemployment rate for this rising generation is double what it is for the rest of the
population. It wasn’t like that in 2000. Young people were getting jobs, they were climbing the
ladder of opportunity. Millions more of our young people are underemployed because the jobs
that are available just aren’t sufficient. They don’t offer the kind of income and growth potential
that should be more broadly accessible. For young people of color things are even harder. And
if you don’t have a college degree or didn’t graduate from high school, most doors just aren’t
open, no matter how hard you knock.

That is why education at all levels — from birth through higher education — is so important to
helping all people climb that ladder of opportunity. I have worked hard throughout my career to
make sure that every child gets a chance to develop his or her mental capacity by developing
their brain from the very earliest age, because if your vocabulary is so far behind by the time
you’re five years old, through no fault of your own but because the adults in your life are so
busy, so stressed or don’t know how you build brain cells, by talking and singing and reading to
babies, then you enter kindergarten having heard 30 million less words than a child from one of
our families. And that’s very hard to overcome. It’s not that when you’re 18 you’re not trying,
it’s when you’re five you were already left behind.

Q. In your opinion, what are the elements of comprehensive immigration reform? How would
your administration’s stance on immigration reform fight back against inequality, promote
economic justice and increase wages for all workers?

HRC: I support comprehensive immigration reform (CIR) and a path to citizenship not just because it’s
the right thing to do, but because it strengthens families, strengthens our economy, and
strengthens our country. I was a strong supporter of CIR as a Senator, cosponsoring Senator
Ted Kennedy’s 2004 bill and supporting the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act in 2006
and 2007. In 2003, 2005 and 2007, I cosponsored the Dream Act in the Senate. I also support
President Obama’s DACA/DAPA executive actions. And if Congress continues to refuse to act,
as President I would do everything possible under the law to go even further.

Q. What are your views on campaign finance reform? Do you support a constitutional
amendment overturning the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision?

HRC: We have to reduce the influence of big money in politics. As I said recently, I support a
constitutional amendment to get unaccountable money out of politics.

Q. What would your administration do to ensure that voting in elections is free, fair and
available to all Americans? Do you oppose policies that restrict access to voting and voter

HRC: As I said recently, the assault on voting rights threatens to block millions of Americans from fully
participating in our democracy. We need to fix the holes opened up by the Supreme Court’s
ruling. Congress should pass legislation to replace those portions of the act that the Court struck
down, and as President I would work to ensure that all citizens have the information and access
they need to fully participate in our democracy.

Q. What do you think this nation’s priorities should be during the next decade? How would your
presidency advance those priorities?

HRC: I am committed to being a champion for everyday Americans and American families. That’s
what I’ve been devoted to my entire adult life, starting with my first job out of law school when I
went to work for the Children’s Defense Fund, all the way through to the work that I did as
Secretary of State promoting women’s rights, promoting the rights of people who would
otherwise be marginalized or left on the sidelines. And I know that although we have begun to
move forward again, it is still hard to imagine exactly how we’re going to get to the point where
people are not just getting by but getting ahead again and staying ahead. Because the deck is
still stacked in favor of those at the top.

We have to be focused on how we’re going to bring about the changes that will ignite
opportunity for everybody willing to work hard for it again. We have to build an economy that’s
innovative, sustainable, and producing good jobs with rising wages. We need to actually reward
workers with increases in their paychecks for the increases in productivity and profitability.

It’s also imperative that we give people the tools through education and job training, so that they
can make the most out of their own lives. And for me that starts at the very beginning. I have
been a child advocate and a child development proponent for my entire adult life, because it’s
what I really care about and believe in. Then we have to make sure that we are doing all we can
to empower our educators, to make sure that they have the support of parents so that they can do
the job they have been trained to do to help prepare our kids. And then we’ve got to make sure
that college is affordable.

One of the biggest stresses in anybody’s life is healthcare. I’m going to support and defend the
Affordable Care Act, and I will work to fix those parts of it that need fixing. But, we have made a
great step forward as a nation to provide a mechanism for people to get access to healthcare,
some for the first time.

We also have to address the unaccountable dark money in politics. I think the Supreme Court
made a grave error with its Citizens United decision. And I will do everything I can do to
appoint Supreme Court Justices who will protect the right to vote and not the right of billionaires
to buy elections.

Finally, we have challenges around the world. But we have to be confident and strong in
understanding that there are many ways to approach the problems that America will be
confronting in the world, and we must do so in cooperation with our friends, our allies, our
fellow democracies around the world. I am convinced that the 21st century can once again be a
century in which the United States leads and helps to set the values and standards.

– See more at:

The AFT announced its endorsement of Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination for President

American Federation of Teachers Endorses Hillary Clinton for President
For Release:

Saturday, July 11, 2015

WASHINGTON—On Saturday, the executive council of the American Federation of Teachers voted overwhelmingly to endorse Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary for president of the United States. The AFT is the first national union to endorse a candidate in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary.

“In vision, in experience and in leadership, Hillary Clinton is the champion working families need in the White House,” said AFT President Randi Weingarten. “Hillary Clinton is a tested leader who shares our values, is supported by our members, and is prepared for a tough fight on behalf of students, families and communities. That fight defines her campaign and her career. In Arkansas, Hillary fought to expand access to early childhood education and care. As first lady, she fought for the right to affordable, high-quality healthcare and helped win that right for our youngest citizens. As senator, she fought for education funding and workers’ rights, and she defended public service workers who came to our nation’s defense on Sept. 11. And as secretary of state, she promoted democracy throughout the world, lifting up the worth and dignity of all people—men and women, gay and straight.”

Weingarten continued, “Hillary Clinton, a product of public schools herself, believes in the promise of public education. From early childhood learning through higher education, she sees how that promise can create real opportunity for kids, building a much-needed bridge to the middle class. Hillary understands that to reclaim the promise of public education, policymakers need to work with educators and their unions. She’s ready to work with us to confront the issues facing children and their families today, including poverty, wage stagnation, income inequality and lack of opportunity. Hillary is the leader we need to help us reclaim the promise of public education and, indeed, of America.”

Upon learning of the union’s endorsement, Clinton said, “For nearly a century, the American Federation of Teachers has worked to expand opportunity for the people and communities they serve. I’m honored to have the support of AFT’s members and leaders, and proud to stand with them to unleash the potential of every American.”

Clinton continued, “I know from my own family that teachers have the power to change lives. We need to make sure every child has access to a quality public education and teachers with the tools to help them succeed. Our country’s future depends on the education we give all our children — and giving them the best means working with the teachers and school personnel who help shape their futures each day.”

As in past elections, the AFT’s 1.6 million members will be a powerful organizing force behind our endorsed candidate. Leading up to November 2016, AFT members are expected to make more than 1 million phone calls and knock on more than 500,000 doors.

The AFT’s endorsement comes a month after Clinton attended an executive council meeting in Washington, D.C. At that meeting, she said, “It is just dead wrong to make teachers the scapegoats for all of society’s problems. Where I come from, teachers are the solution. And I strongly believe that unions are part of the solution, too.”

Bernie Sanders and Martin O’Malley also spoke with the executive council at that meeting. All potential and announced candidates were invited to complete a questionnaire, and those who returned the questionnaire were invited to meet with the council. No Republican candidates responded to the invitation.

The AFT has conducted a long, deliberative process to assess which candidate would best champion the issues of importance to our members, their families and communities. Members have been engaged online, through the “You Decide” website, through several telephone town halls, and through multiple surveys—reaching more than 1 million members.

Additionally, over the past few weeks, the AFT has conducted a scientific poll of our membership on the candidates and key issues. The top issues members raised were jobs and the economy and public education. Seventy-nine percent of our members who vote in Democratic primaries said we should endorse a candidate. And by more than a 3-to-1 margin, these members said the AFT should endorse Clinton.

This week, the AFT will begin its biennial TEACH conference, a gathering of thousands of educators. Weingarten will address the conference at 12:30 p.m. on Monday, with a press availability to follow. Her remarks will include information about the endorsement. For more information on the TEACH conference, please email Laura Pometto at (link sends e-mail).

– See more at:

I received the following letter from a teacher at a charter school, who was recently fired for her efforts to start a union.


Kate Connors writes:


I was excited when I accepted the teaching position at New Dawn Charter High School, in Brooklyn, NY. It was the 2012-2013 school year, the school’s opening year. The teachers reported to work in mid August for orientation. I immediately liked my colleagues and was happy to be working with them. During the orientation, we attended workshops led by the principal that addressed the school’s expectations, lesson planning, and preparing for the school year. At the end of one of these days, the principal told us to dress comfortably for the next day, that we had to get the school ready for the students. Because the school was brand new, the four-story building was still not furnished. On the first floor, in the cafeteria were all the school’s furnishings. The teachers were given the task of moving the items from the cafeteria to the room to which they belonged. The school has four floors and many, many rooms. The cafeteria was filled with desks, tables, file cabinets, bookshelves and more. The teachers worked together moving these large and heavy items. A hand truck was provided for the heavier items. It took a few days, and when we were finally done, the teachers’ desks arrived in flat boxes and in pieces. We were given tools and told to build them ourselves. We were also asked to help clean the building. We were given Windex and paper towels, we were told to clean the windows and lunchroom kitchen. The faculty began discussing amongst themselves how inappropriate this was to ask of the teachers. It was the school’s first year, and we did want to help it get off to a successful start, but this certainly was the start of a steep decline of morale and disappointment with our administration.


The students arrived in September, and I was happy to focus on teaching. I knew that our student population would be challenging, since we were a transfer school that enrolled under-credited and over-aged students. However, I did not anticipate the lack of disciplinary action taken by administration to address student behavior. The students were essentially running the school. There were thefts (phones and computers; all personal property of teachers), cursing and homophobic slurs launched from students to teachers, fights, marijuana use in the building, etc. The worst part is that the teachers began to have safety concerns about coming to work each day. Drug deals were happening outside of the building, a student was chased down the street by someone with a gun and non-students were entering the building. The faculty begged for security. We were told that the janitor would also be acting as a security guard. That wasn’t satisfactory, and we were insistent. They finally hired two security guards, and it was another fight to get the security guard to use metal detector wands.


Despite the unacceptable behavior of the students, the administration justified their inaction by standing by their philosophy that nothing was more important than keeping the students in the classroom and giving them the opportunity to learn. None of the teachers felt supported in or outside of the classroom. It became crystal clear that the administration did not have concern for our safety. During the week of Hurricane Sandy, the Mayor closed down New York City schools for the entire week. Traveling or even being outdoors was dangerous in such weather conditions — even the subways were not running. I was shocked when I received an email from the executive director, Sara Asmussen, telling us to report to school on Thursday and Friday of that week. No students were in attendance, but the faculty was expected to come in and stay in school during the normal 9-5 workday. The administration wanted to open the school for the two days rather than lose two days from our February break.


The faculty’s morale continued to plummet. We spoke about forming a union. We called a meeting of the teachers and had a serious discussion. We all agreed it was essential. However, we didn’t reach out to the UFT until the following year. The school year was coming to a close. I was interviewing elsewhere and had hopes of leaving; however, I could not find a position so I returned to New Dawn. Our math teacher, science teacher, social studies teacher and social worker had found positions elsewhere and resigned.


New Dawn is a year round school, so again, the teachers reported to work in the summer. We met with the new teachers who replaced those who resigned, in addition to the new staff members that were hired because we were enrolling more students. The summer was a repeat of the previous year. We were asked to take trash from the back of the school to the curb. There were month’s worth of boxes and bags just left there because the custodial staff left in June and were not replaced. We were given gloves and plastic aprons to use while doing these duties. I continued to search for open positions in other schools hoping that I could find something before September, but as I mentioned, it did not work out.


Come September, the students arrived, and similar behavioral issues ensued. Despite the horrible climate set by the administration, I was able to feel good about building a positive rapport with some of the students. I also feel that I made a difference in some of the students’ lives, no matter how small it may have been. I did my best to give to our students while I was employed at New Dawn.


Again came the discussion of unionizing. We had to act. I reached out to the UFT and was assigned a union representative. A teacher and I met with her after school. We outlined our grievances with her, and she advised us on starting a union. The senior teachers were on board right away. The new teachers were reluctant because they feared repercussions. In the end, all teachers signed a union card and we announced to the administration that we formed a union. After this announcement, the teachers’ fears became a reality. The administration responded harshly. Walking into the building, the executive director would not even make eye contact or interact with you. The principal canceled the majority of our after school professional development programs, and I received several emails accusing me of grievances that I did not commit, including not showing up to class and breaking a student’s confidentiality. A colleague had to speak with the executive director about his vacation plans to see his family, and he was told that the time might “not be available” to him. When asked why, the executive director pointed to the UFT keychain sticking out of his pocket.


We worked hard to motivate the faculty to keep their heads up. We attended board meetings monthly and requested that the school acknowledge that we were a union and to begin negotiating with us. Again and again, we were shut down. The simplest requests, such as changing the time of the board meeting to after-school hours so we could attend the entire meeting, rather than the last portion of the meeting, were turned down.


I wasn’t completely surprised when, at the end of the school year, four of the most vocal union supporters were terminated. It was no coincidence. The employee handbook discusses a progressive disciplinary plan, which begins with a verbal warning and proceeds to written warnings before a termination can take place. None of the four teachers ever received a warning that their employment was in jeopardy. We immediately filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB). The NLRB found our complaint valid and notified the school of the charges against them. It wasn’t long before the school settled the charge and provided backpay to the teachers and expunged all records of our termination. In addition to losing us, five staff members resigned. Unfortunately, the remaining teachers continue to work in this turbulent environment. On the first school day that the remaining teachers reported to work in early July, the executive director made a speech that was coercive and punitive. She reprimanded the staff for union activity and threatened them with legal action if they used the students’ contact information to speak with them about supporting the teacher’s union. This speech was recorded by a teacher and was presented to the NLRB, who filed another charge against the school. I hope that the conditions change for the sake of the teachers and the students, but I am doubtful that any change will occur.


Despite this negative experience, I have decided to continue my career in education. I am proud to say that I am now a teacher in a New York City Public School. The four terminated teachers, as well as the five teachers who resigned, all found jobs in public schools. Working in my current school is such a different experience. I am so happy to get up for work in the morning. I feel appreciated and supported by my administration. I am able to focus on growing as a teacher rather than protecting myself. I hope to continue in the public school system for many years to come.


Kate Connors

The Supreme Court hasa cepted for review a case called Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association. It is a challenge to the fair share fees that unions charge non members. If the CTA loses, unions would be weakened by a loss if members and revenues. The Democratic Party would also be weakened. Some of the most conservative judges have been carefully biding their time, waiting for a case to finish off organized labor. Will this be the case that lands the death blow to public sector unions.

Without teachers’ unions, there will be no one to fight for adequate funding of schools, smaller classes, decent salaries, or teachers’ rights to due process.

Here are some readings:

Here is the unions’ reaction:

Presently, nearly 90% of charter schools are non-union. Less than 10% of charter teachers belong to a union. This is not by chance or happenstance. Although the late Albert Shanker was a pioneer of the charter idea in 1988 (and turned against charters in 1993 because they had been taken over by privatizers), the charter movement today is firmly anti-union. Many of its major funders–like the Walton Family Foundation–are antagonistic to unions. Many of its strongest advocates believe that management must be free to hire and fire teachers at will and set compensation at will.

This article in “The American Prospect” by Rachel M. Cohen explores the complexity of relations between charters and unions. A few charters tolerate unions; most fight them.

The NEA and AFT are actively trying to organize charter teachers. This is challenging because of high teacher turnover and often hostile charter management. As the numbers show, they have had limited success, but Cohen says that the unions have softened their opposition to charters in hopes of establishing unions in more charters.

The article begins::

“The April sun had not yet risen in Los Angeles when teachers from the city’s largest charter network—the Alliance College-Ready Public Schools—gathered outside for a press conference to discuss their new union drive. Joined by local labor leaders, politicians, student alumni, and parents, the importance of the educators’ effort was not lost on the crowd. If teachers were to prevail in winning collective bargaining rights at Alliance’s 26 schools, the audience recognized, then L.A.’s education reform landscape would fundamentally change. For years, after all, many of the most powerful charter backers had proclaimed that the key to helping students succeed was union-free schools.

“One month earlier, nearly 70 Alliance teachers and counselors had sent a letter to the administration announcing their intent to join United Teachers of Los Angeles (UTLA), the local teachers union that represents the 35,000 educators who work in L.A.’s public schools. The letter asked Alliance for a “fair and neutral process”—one that would allow teachers to organize without fear of retaliation. The administration offered no such reassurance. Indeed, April’s press conference was called to highlight a newly discovered internal memo circulating among Alliance administrators that offered tips on how to best discourage staff from forming a union. It also made clear that Alliance would oppose any union, not just UTLA. “To continue providing what is best for our schools and our students, the goal is no unionization, not which union,” the memo said.

“The labor struggle happening in Los Angeles mirrors a growing number of efforts taking place at charter schools around the country, where most teachers work with no job security on year-to-year contracts. For teachers, unions, and charter school advocates, the moment is fraught with challenges. Traditional unions are grappling with how they can both organize charter teachers and still work politically to curb charter expansion. Charter school backers and funders are trying to figure out how to hold an anti-union line, while continuing to market charters as vehicles for social justice.

“Though 68 percent of K-12 public school teachers are unionized, just 7 percent of charter school teachers are, according to a 2012 study from the Center for Education Reform. (And of those, half are unionized only because state law stipulates that they follow their district’s collective bargaining agreement.) However, the momentum both to open new charter schools and to organize charter staff is growing fast.”

EduShyster has a fascinating report on the festivities in New Orleans, where the National Charter School Conference is meeting. The event was supposed to be a celebration of the complete elimination of public education in New Orleans, but something unexpected happened. A group of charter teachers from Ohio disrupted a session to ask a charter founder why he fired teachers for trying to organize a union at his schools.

Here is the backstory:

When is *disruption* not just a super cool buzz word but something that’s actually, well, *disruptive*? That would be when teachers at the National Charter Schools Conference in New Orleans ask the CEO of an Ohio charter management organization about firing teachers for trying to organizing a union at his schools—and using taxpayer money to pay the fine when he got caught. This went about as well as you might expect. And when security arrived, combing through the crowd for disruptors, that’s when things got really disruptive…
Our story actually starts long before the bon temps starting roulez-ing at this year’s charter conference in the Big Easy. In 2014, teachers at two I CAN charter schools in Cleveland decided to unionize in hopes of improving working conditions at the school, raising pay and reducing sky-high turnover. And when the school year ended, seven teachers who were leaders of the organizing effort, found themselves no longer working at the schools. Why? Because they’d been fired by school leaders, who, according to a federal complaint filed by the teachers, *led teachers to believe they were under surveillance and pressured teachers into revealing who was leading the organizing effort.*

But wait—it gets better (for realz)
The feds sided with the teachers, finding that I CAN was guilty of *interfering with, restraining, and coercing employees.* The order, similar to an indictment in a criminal case, also accused I Can of *discriminating in regard to the hire or tenure or terms or conditions of employment, thereby discouraging membership in a labor organization.* I Can founders Marshall Emerson and Jason Stragand, meanwhile, acknowledged that they’d like their schools to remain union free, then paid the $69,000 in backpay they were ordered to pay the fired teachers with tax-payer money.

At the National Charter School Conference in New Orleans, the CEO of I CAN charters was talking about his plans for growth, emphasizing the importance of “hiring, working with, and retaining good teachers,” when one of his teachers disrupted his presentation. She asked, “Um, how do you square that with firing a bunch of them when they tried to organize a union?” and a group of other charter teachers began handing out leaflets about the situation at I CAN. In no time at all, security guards were there to corral the disrupters, which wasn’t all that easy.

EduShyster says that the teachers were “cage-busting,” to use Rick Hess’s term, people who bust out of their cages and take ownership of their schools.

This is all very funny, because the “reformers” have made a virtue of disruption. They call it “creative.” But apparently it is not welcome when they are the ones disrupted!

Governor Christie has strong opinions. He doesn’t like public schools (even though Néw Jersey public schools regularly place 2nd or 3rd in the nation on NAEP, behind Massachusetts and neck-and-neck with Connecticut.) yet he feels the need to bad-mouth New Jersey’s public schools whenever he has the chance. Christie doesn’t like teachers (he claims they have a four or five month vacation and receive a full-time salary for a part-time job). And he absolutely loathes teacher unions (they insist that their lazy members get paid for working longer school days).

To see Governor Christie at his best, watch the video clip on this post

Instead of telling the world about his state’s excellent public schools, he rants about their terrible teachers and retrograde union.

This man will never be President. Not just because his state’s economy is in trouble, not because of Bridgegate, but because he is a bully and a blowhard.

The corporate reformers like to say that “school choice” is the civil rights issue of our time. This is a view shared by Jeb Bush, the Walton family, Scott Walker, and various other rightwingers whose real goal is to shrink the public sector by privatization and to eliminate unions.

But a recent story in the New York Times said that the loss of public sector jobs hurts African American workers disproportionately.

“Roughly one in five black adults works for the government, teaching school, delivering mail, driving buses, processing criminal justice and managing large staffs. They are about 30 percent more likely to have a public sector job than non-Hispanic whites, and twice as likely as Hispanics.

“Compared to the private sector, the public sector has offered black and female workers better pay, job stability and more professional and managerial opportunities,” said Jennifer Laird, a sociologist at the University of Washington who has been researching the subject.

“During the Great Recession, though, as tax revenues plunged, federal, state and local governments began shedding jobs. Even now, with the economy regaining strength, public sector employment has still not bounced back. An incomplete recovery is part of the reason, but a combination of strong anti-government and anti-tax sentiment in some places has kept down public payrolls. At the same time, attempts to curb collective bargaining, like those led by Wisconsin’s governor, Scott Walker, a likely Republican presidential candidate, have weakened public unions.

“The Labor Department counts half a million fewer public sector jobs than before the start of the recession in 2007. That figure, however, understates just how much the government’s work force has shrunk, said Elise Gould, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute, a labor-oriented research organization in Washington. That is because it fails to account for the normal growth in the country’s population: Factor that in, she said, and there are 1.8 million fewer jobs in the public sector for people to fill.

“The decline reverses a historical pattern, researchers say, with public sector employees typically holding onto their jobs even during most economic downturns.

“Because blacks hold a disproportionate share of the jobs, relative to their share of the population, the cutbacks naturally hit them harder.”

The decline in unions has also harmed black and Hispanic families, because union jobs provide a path to the middle class with better wages and a measure of job security.

Anyone who claims that privatization promotes civil rights is purposely distorting the facts. Getting a voucher or a charter (to a school thay may be worse than the public school) does not compensate for the loss of your parents’ employment. It is a devil’s bargain.

Arthur Camins writes in response to Marc Tucker’s article about the failure of annual testing:

“One of the contributors to the problem that Mark Tucker identifies is cynicism.

“Few appear to believe anymore that government will do anything more than the meager attention effects of annual testing to address inequity. As a country, we have forgotten that it was the collective action of the labor and civil rights movements that has mediated inequality, not punishment regimes or the individualism inherent in the so-called choice notion behind charter schools. It’s not federal overreach that’s the problem, but reaching for the wrong things. See:

“It doesn’t have to be this way. We Can Be Better than the Audacity of Small Hopes:

“Since the Reagan era, the Democrats have been on the defensive, and have run away from collective action for equity. It’s time to re-embrace community responsibility rather than selfish-individualism.”


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