Joining a wave of reformers, high school teacher Tiffany Choi of the Caucus of Today’s Teachers just got elected president of the Denver teachers union—again. In a re-vote, Choi cemented her May defeat of a 10-year incumbent.
She ran on a platform that the union should partner with parents, involve members more in decision-making, and fight back against corporate education reform.
When the original vote was counted in May, Choi was leading by 16 votes. But the union’s board ordered a do-over, citing process issues.
The sad outcome of the United Auto Workers campaign at Volkswagen reminded me of when I entered the labor movement 15 years ago.
Back then the national leaders of the Service Employees (SEIU) had diagnosed labor’s big problem: we weren’t organizing fast enough. As the percentage of unionized workers in the U.S. slipped, so did unions’ influence.
If only we could regain sufficient union density, these leaders said, we would have power. Then we could start winning gains for members and change the political climate.
I spent an exhilarating week in the midst of the Los Angeles teachers strike—the first strike in 30 years by the second-largest teacher union in the country.
Of course wages and benefits were central to the teachers’ fight. But like many successful strikes, theirs was about something bigger—that the district should invest in public education as a public good, rather than stripping schools of their value and selling them off as parts.
Who will pay for a 5 percent raise, smaller classes, and more nurses, librarians, and counselors for the Chicago public schools? “Rich people,” Chicago Teachers Union Vice President Stacy Gates told the press.
Their contract expires in June. Meanwhile, fresh off the first charter school strike in history, the union set a February 5 strike date at another Chicago charter network.