By Tiffany Hasker
In February, CTA dove into new waters, launching www.pinkfriday09.org
, a website dedicated to helping teachers share their stories, latest news articles and Pink Friday event planning tips, as well as alerting them to locally planned rallies. There are currently more than 3,500 Pink Friday community members, with that number growing every day. Also at press time, more than 26,000 teachers had already received pink slips.
“Budget cuts only hurt the students we teach,” says Maria Eastham, a San Marcos Educators Association member, on the www.pinkfriday09.org
site. “We are cutting back on the investment of future doctors, teachers and politicians. Please write the governor, your senator and Assemblyman immediately to inform them of your concern.
To fight back, teachers have started blogging about local layoffs, contributing to discussion boards, and uploading photos and videos — and are in the midst of actively creating an online community. The phone tree method has given way to online social networking, providing a more immediate and streamlined way of organizing and promoting initiatives.
The Pink Friday mobilizing plan is rooted in the dedicated work of the new CTA State Budget Crisis Workgroup chaired by CTA Vice President Dean E. Vogel. The large, dynamic committee consists of CTA chapter leaders, CTA Board members, organizers and other staff, and encourages a free and frank exchange of ideas and strategies, says Vogel.
“The Crisis Workgroup is so diverse that it truly represents all of the members of CTA,” says Vogel. “We have explored every method of organizing against these devastating pink slips and school cuts. We explored using technology, and that’s paying off as CTA members and the public go online to our new website to build a social network of support for our public schools. We will push to keep that online dialogue going beyond Pink Friday. We will keep working for what all of us are working for — to stabilize education funding so that our students can get the public education they deserve.”
News media was so impressed with the initial effort of the website that the Bay Area affiliate of ABC News, KGO-TV, ran a segment in February highlighting www.pinkfriday09.org
— and a video posted there about the mobilizing efforts of New Haven teachers in Union City, Alameda County. Their “Walk ’n Talk” campaign involves teachers going door to door sharing their school’s budget cut stories and legislator contact information with their community. Other members were inspired by this effort and the video, providing an amazing opportunity for teachers to unite online.
“Our members are so excited about all the press our video has received,” says Charmaine Kawaguchi, president of the 700-member New Haven Teachers Association. “And going out and knocking on doors to warn our parents about local and state school cuts is paying off. The neighborhoods are responding. We now have many parents who are joining us in our door-to-door campaign to protect our schools. We truly feel we can change things for the better this way.”
Members caught on quickly, realizing the powerful tool at their disposal. Ronda Gupton-Pruett, a teacher from Napa, suggested in one of her posts that teachers write “Pink-slipped Teacher” in pink lettering on their cars. Soon after she posted her thought, others took up the idea and began sharing other effective methods. Stockton teachers decided to protest at a busy intersection wearing pink and carrying signs. Some members blogged about how they were planning to go to Sacramento to protest the layoffs in addition to joining local protests in their area. One community member from Vallejo shared a digital file of a Pink Friday button, and another posted that they had designed fliers and T-shirts — all easily shared among members and quickly downloaded from www.pinkfriday09.org
Most importantly, www.pinkfriday09.org
has become a place for teachers to commiserate and share information about layoffs happening up and down the state. Having an online space made it possible for teachers to share experiences with one another and discuss which protest ideas worked in the past, which did not, and how they felt personally and professionally about the layoffs.
With the growing popularity of social networking sites such as Facebook, it’s only natural that unions are finally seizing the opportunity to organize in such an effective way. Pink Friday was added as an event on Facebook and quickly had hundreds of members. In no time, more than 10 local Pink Friday events were posted on Facebook. Videos posted to the site are being shared with friends on Facebook, YouTube and elsewhere. In addition, interactive ads placed all over the Internet have driven people to www.pinkfriday09.org, leading teachers from other states to take up the call and stand in solidarity. The public has taken notice, too. One parent, who has children at Dry Creek Elementary, posted to the Pink Friday site, “Our teachers have worked hard for our children and have been there for us. Now it’s time we’re there for them.”
After March 13, the site will be accessible at www.standupforschools.org with a continued focus on funding for education. The special election on May 19 offers educators an opportunity to restore much-needed funding to our schools. The website will have information, calls to action and bloggers who will be writing on the topic and sharing updates on the situation. The future of this site depends solely on the efforts of the active, participating community members who stand up for themselves, California’s schools and their students.
A good place to start online
Many are wary of posting personal information online. The best way to approach social networking is to be aware of the inherent dangers of the Internet. Don’t share too much personal information (you’ll need to decide how much is too much). Imagine that your boss, children, parents, students, neighbors and future employers can read what you write and see your posted photos and videos. Things can be copied and pasted very easily. Also be aware that the Internet is archived. Your postings can be found years later. CTA legal counsel suggests you not write anything online that you wouldn’t put in a letter.
Ways to get involved in an online community
- Register and post your profile.
- If you read something that resonates, post a comment.
- Share your story through a blog post.
- Ask or answer a question in the discussion forum.