Friday, July 20, 2018

FFWP Conference Call July 14th. Arizona Teacher's Leader Shares Experiences

Arizona Teachers March Through Phoenix April 2018
This blog, known as Facts For Working People holds weekly conference calls. The most recent one was the second time we have had one of the new leaders of the teachers and educators strikes and movements from West Virginia, Kentucky, Arizona and Puerto Rico, join our calls and share their experiences. This Blog has on a number of occasions posted videos of three of these new leaders and articles from another. We would ask our readers to please check out this material.  Links to these are included below. Also, go to the Puerto Rico label on the right to read more on the huge struggles that have been taking place in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of the hurricane and around education.

Last weekend Rebecca Fligelman Garelli, a leading activist of the Teachers and Educators movement in Arizona joined our conference call and helped us understand the great developments that are taking place in this state. What was made clear is that we are seeing the beginning of a new movement of working people. Arising out of these struggles are new leaders from the rank and file of the movement who are not prepared to accept any longer the refusal of the established leadership to fight back against the bosses' attacks. This is a development of the greatest importance.

 Sister Garelli laid out her and her movements' experience. It was extraordinary. It was inspiring.

When the movement in Arizona began, there were only 20,000 members in the union, a tiny minority of the teachers, and with a trade union leadership that was not prepared to fight, in fact, opposed any attempt to fight in any serious way, and was in a state controlled by the Republican Party. The new leadership in Arizona went on the Internet and reached out to all teachers, union and non-union in public schools and so-called charter schools. Charter schools are the way that the US profit motivated corporations and their capitalist system is moving to privatize education.

Also, a very important step taken by the new leadership that had arisen initially among the teachers was that they called on all workers in education to vote whether they were in a union or not, in a public school or Charter School, canteen workers, cleaners, or grounds people. They got a huge majority vote to take action to defend and expand public education and spending on education.

The Republican state government frightened by these developments approved a measly raise, but only for the teachers. This was prior to the threat of a walk out. The new movement said NO; it was going to take action. Faced with this the Republican state government offered around $60 million.

This new movement through its new leadership drew up 5 demands:

- 20% wage increase for all.
- Return education funding to level of 2008.
- Moratorium on all tax cuts. (The tax cuts were going to the rich and corporations.)
- A different salary structure. Reinstate the steps (years of experience) and lanes (professional growth, i.e. degrees/credits) salary structure
- Competitive wages for all workers in education.

Faced with the new movement's rejection of its offer and its decision to go ahead and act for its five demands, the Republican state government which had been forced to offer a $60  million increase in education spending, suddenly found it could spend $406 million rather than the earlier offer of $60 million. By their action, the teachers and educators increased the offer from $60 million to $406 million. This was, and is, an enormous victory. This shows that resolute action and a mobilized rank and file with a determined leadership can win gains for working people. This new movement must receive the gratitude and the support of all working people.

But if anybody thinks that the increase to $406 million is the end of the matter they must think again. The new movement's demand for a return to the 2008 spending level would mean an increase of around $1.1 billion. So this new movement is fighting on for the other 600 million plus. 151,000 signatures were needed to put this increase of spending back to where it was in 2008 on the ballot in November. The level of support was astounding and the campaign received 270,000 signatures, almost twice the amount needed.

This is now on the ballot in November. The corporation bought and paid for capitalist politicians of both parties, the Republicans and Democrats are not happy. Both have over the years cut education spending and been moving to destroy public education, promote charter schools and privatize, that is, make profit out of education. President Obama, Arne Duncan, Eli Broad and Bill Gates all have worked toward privatizing public education

The new teachers and educators movement in Arizona is now taking the fight on to the electoral front in the coming elections. This movement has created Legislative District (LD) Facebook pages as a platform for educators to discuss candidates. This is the way the new movement in Arizona is approaching the coming elections and taking their battle on to the electoral plane. This is a positive development.

While respecting the decisions this movement makes as it continues to battle on for a better education system, this Blog advocates that the various struggles should run their own candidates out of these struggles. One way to approach that in this situation in Arizona is only to support candidates that pledge to support the five demands. This Blog also stands for the building of a mass party of the working class rooted in the work places and working class communities and rooted in the new democratic union movement which will develop. These teachers and educators movements are the early steps in this direction.

These new movements of workers in education have a number of distinctive features. They are overwhelmingly led by women. This Blog has been continually emphasizing that women have moved in their tens and tens of millions into the paid workforce over the past decades. This Blog has emphasized that today an estimated 50% of factory workers in the world are women. This means a huge strengthening of the working class. This Blog has insisted that the new workers' movement that will develop and that is beginning to develop to take on the corporate capitalist offensive, will have a leadership which involves women as never before. This is shown in these new teachers and educators movements.

Another feature of these new movements is the use of the Internet. In Arizona the new teachers and educators movement has 55,000 people on its Face Book page. In Arizona and all the other movements of the teachers and educators throughout the US, activists are using the Internet in a big way. This is an important step forward.

Another feature of these new movements which is extremely important and positive is that they are working together and very much linked up and linked up not only through through social media. A meeting has been organized for the weeks ahead which will be attended by the elected leaderships of the education workers in all the states where this movement has developed. Its purpose is to discuss coordinated action.

Another feature of this movement which shows its maturity and consciousness is its approach to the existing trade union leadership. These new movements are aware that the existing trade union leadership has shown that they are not prepared to fight; this is true throughout organized labor. As a result these new leaderships are determined to keep the leadership of their struggles in their own hands. But they are not ultra left. They are prepared to relate to and accept any help they can receive from the existing trade union leadership but they are clear on the role that these leaders have played and would play again if they got control of the movement so this new leadership is keeping control of its struggle and forces in its own hands.

In relation to this point we wish to make the following comment. It is related to the various left organizations that exist in the country. The overwhelming major of these, from the largest, the Democratic Socialists of America, through Labor Notes and others, do not openly explain and confront the role of the trade union leadership. That role being to capitulate to the offensive of the corporations, the bosses. Some do it by hiding behind super rrrrevolutionary phraseology and not taking part in the union struggles against the bosses and against the policies of the union leadership, particularly the disastrous Team Concept that argues that bosses and workers have the same interests.

Some do it by taking part in union work but in doing so refuse to take up and explain and oppose the role of the union leadership and their policy of capitulation to the corporations and bosses. This Blog believes this is a very mistaken policy. Here's a few posts from this blog on these issues and please browse through the labels for issues that matter to you.

Those of us who were on Facts For Working People conference call last Saturday 14th July were and are extremely enthusiastic about the participation of the Arizona teachers and educators leader on the conference call and what we learned from this activist. Just as was the situation with the participation of the teachers and educators workers leader from Kentucky on a previous call. And we understand how privileged we are to receive information from and to hear from and learn from these leaders and these new movements. We are now passing on what we have learned and the opinions expressed to all workers and people who read this Blog. We ask our readers to share this as widely as possible. And to organize support for these workers in struggle. contact these new movements, learn from these new movements. A genuine discussion took place on our conference call. An exchange of views and experiences, a genuine dialogue.

One question that was raised in the discussion was where did the movement see the money coming from to meet its demand for a return to the spending level of 2008. The state government are trying to take it from other programs, such as medicare and medicaid or through some sort of vehicle tax. The plan of the state government which represents the corporations and the rich and their capitalist system is that if they have to give some concessions to the education workers they will take it from other workers and in this way they wish to achieve two objectives. One - protect the tax cuts and the welfare they hand out to the corporations and the rich. And two - divide the working class by having other workers blame the teachers and education workers for cutting into programs or raising taxes on other working people.

The leaders of this educators movement, it consciously calls itself that to make sure it includes all workers in education not just teachers, have taken the position that they want what they call a "Dedicated Funding Source" that is, that it has to be spelled out where the money is to come from. And it is not to come from other programs which benefit working people or by taxes on motor vehicles which is what the state government is seeking in an effort to both shield the rich and the corporations and also divide and rule the working class. This is still being struggled over. 

Facts For Working people Blog had heard from activists who follow our Blog in Britain that a major trade union there called Unite has set a Unite Community organizational structure with a very low dues amount and to which anybody who opposes the corporate capitalist attacks on working people and the environment can join. The information about the web site of this trade union community initiative has been put on this Blog and is now being shared directly with the new teachers and educators movements. These movements are very interested in hearing more on this development. This shows the importance not just of linking together the working peoples struggles in the US but also in drawing together and learning from and sharing experiences with the struggles of working people world wide. See a video of Unite’s Community Membership here.

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