California Educator

November 2011

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Regions I and II leadership conferences a hit CTA LEADERS FROM Regions I and II met in Pacific Grove and Reno, Nev., to discuss the issues their members currently face. Members attended helpful workshops and discussions, and listened to keynote speaker Elaine Bernard, head of the Harvard Trade Union Program, stress the importance of organizing in a time when unions are under attack nationwide. REGION I: A "PERFECT STORM" For Kathy Young and many other North- ern California CTA members who attended the CTA Region I Leadership Conference in mid-October, the "perfect storm" theme was perfect. It gave an urgency to the Pacific Grove gathering of nearly 500 educators and the vital workshops and inspiring speakers selected to help members weather the storm of challenges facing public education. "It was one of the most useful CTA con- CTA President Dean Vogel speaks at an "Occupy LAUSD" rally, in which hundreds of UTLA mem- bers and State Council delegates take part. In an emotional show of solidarity, scores of Council delegates — educators from across California — joined CTA President Dean E. Vogel in a march on Oct. 22 from the Bonaventure Hotel in downtown Los Angeles to join United Teachers Los Angeles President Warren Fletcher and UTLA members at their "Occupy LAUSD" protest at the head- quarters of the nation's second-largest school district. The ongoing UTLA pro- test is focused on keeping public schools public, lessening the influence of billion- aires like Bill Gates and Eli Broad in the district, and demanding that the richest 1 percent pay their fair share of taxes while teachers are being laid off and students are stuffed into overcrowded classrooms. By Mike Myslinski ferences I have ever attended," says Young, the communications director for the Cuper- tino Education Association and a fourth- grade teacher. Her media relations and internal communications training prompted her to rev up her Santa Clara County chap- ter's social media program, and to start to revamp its website. Keynote speaker Elaine Bernard inspired Young. "She is really dynamic. She puts everything in a new light." "We are wearing targets on our backs," said Bernard, because public employees are the most unionized sector in America. "We can create a better future." She praised those in the audience for tak- ing the time to get involved in their union and seeing the power of collective action in the workplace. "We discovered that if we organized a few people and a bunch of us stood up, we could change things." The "perfect storm" theme was reflected in the workshops offered: how to fight back against the "bad teacher" narrative; a look at who is behind attacks on unions; an examination of labor's rich history and what it means to be a union leader; and how to organize for power by building a CTA chapter based on strong relationships with colleagues and their values. Participants spent a part of the Oct. 14-16 weekend discussing in small groups how education reform, online learning and the state's fiscal crisis challenge public edu- cation today. Educators left the conference with a framework for understanding the perfect storm of problems our schools and union face; they learned how to empower members and chapters through collective actions; and they learned the connections between the workshops and the develop- ment of union survival skills, and the need to plan the next steps. In his inspirational closing speech, CTA President Dean E. Vogel underscored the perfect storm concerns. "Region I never turns away from the tough issues, and this weekend's conference was no exception," Vogel said. "You know which way the winds are blowing and are not afraid to push back against the forces that would privatize our classrooms or mar- ginalize our roles as educators. You do this, together, in union with your other CTA brothers and sisters across the state. And you do it in the face of all the teacher-bashing and scapegoating that's been going on recently." He reminded members of how highly the public regards educators, offering hope for the battles that lie ahead. "You should know that no matter what cheap shots our adversaries are taking at us in the media, our latest polling shows teachers are still among the most val- ued and respected members in our communities. When you speak, people listen." Q&A ELAINE BERNARD, HEAD OF THE HARVARD TRADE UNION PROGRAM, SPOKE AT BOTH THE REGION I AND REGION II LEADERSHIP CONFER- ENCES. WE CAUGHT UP WITH HER TO DISCUSS HER VIEWS ON UNIONS AND THE POWER OF COLLECTIVE ACTION. READ THAT INTERVIEW AT WWW.CTA.ORG/BERNARDQA. story continued on page 40 November 2011 / 35 Photo by Mike Myslinski

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