Monday, September 2, 2013

Solidarity isn't just a word; it's hard work.

My speech from tonight's meeting.  (If I had been allowed to give it in full.) 

There is a historic battle in front of us.  

It is a battle against a well funded machine. A machine that is taking aim at public education, workers' rights, black and brown people, poor people, our students.

We are facing an urgent and immediate crisis, yes. I believe that our bargaining team will continue to work to get a contract we deserve – but that is not the end.  That is just the beginning

We are at a tipping point. 

More than ever we can see the damage done to our public education system through our politicians’ utter abandonment,  the rampant expansion of charters and privatization, a coordinated attack on working people and our rights and wages, and a complete disinvestment in our students. 

When we push through what we’re facing today, there will still be countless more battles to fight in this war to save and transform public education.  And we, as teachers, as counselors, as educators, as school staff, as rank and file members of the PFT– we must see ourselves as real leaders in this fight.  

We MUST learn to grow our power and wield our power.

So I say to you, WE ARE THE PFT.  WE need to take responsibility for what that means.  It starts by going in tomorrow, talking to every colleague we see, making a coordinated plan at our school level about how we are going to breathe life back into our chapters, empower ourselves as educators, and be engaged in ways we haven’t had to over the last decade.

We are going to have to take on the work of building up our relationships within our schools, between our schools, across the city, with our fellow PFT members and with the parents and students at our schools.  

No one is going to do it for us.

Solidarity is not just a word to throw around.  Solidarity is a lot of hard work in order to bring back the spirit, the unity, and the courage we’re going to need to make our schools stronger for the next week, the next month, the next year.  

So I ask you, rank and file members of the PFT, I ask you President Jordan and the executive committee, I ask you – What are we willing to do? 

We must make a plan to strategically leverage the power of our numbers so that we disrupt business as usual and force the hand of decision-makers.  In order to get there, we need to trust that we have leaders at the school-based level and build towards the kind of democracy that invests in developing that type of leadership from below. 

We must GROW and WIELD OUR POWER to:
-       - Force back the egregious anti-student, anti-teacher concessions the SRC is trying to push on us.
-       - Force the Mayor to act like a leader and go to Harrisburg to get the funding our kids deserve.
-      -  Force Corbett out of office, and find a real leader to stop playing politics with our kids’ lives and put together a full and fair funding formula.
-       - To get in front of the next round of school closures that are coming for us, to stop the rampant expansion of charters and privatization, and to ultimately get rid of the SRC.

That is the war in front of us. 

It starts tonight.  It starts with us building that plan toward broad, unified, and militant action that involves every one of our 15,000 members.

What are we willing to do to take the steps to build that plan? 

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