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Remember me

Joe Nunez Council Speech June 2014


Good Morning Council. As I was thinking about all the work we’ve done together since the last time we met, I realized that I have now been in this new job for about one year. How time flies when you’re having fun. But seriously, as a proud son of farmworkers from Guadalupe and a teacher and chapter president from Santa Maria, it continues to be an honor to serve as your Executive Director.

The first time I spoke to you, last October, I shared with you an axiom for organizing that says: A good organizer is a social arsonist who goes around setting people on fire. Well, from political action…to bargaining support…to chapter organizing…to transforming our profession…to community outreach…to recruiting new members…you all have been setting fires.


Dean talked to you about the importance of this election and in a bit we’re going to hear from “the man of Tuesday” himself, Superintendent of Public Instruction Tom Torlakson. But I wanted to share some of the serious work that is happening on your behalf. Our GR staff, Field staff and Communications staff have really been working 24-7 for weeks to assure success.

They not only work in getting information out to all of you and our members, but are also leading coalition campaign efforts in these targeted races. I want you to see and hear some of that work today.

For Tom Torlakson we started with an Issue Advocacy campaign that included two TV ads: One that called for ensuring that school funding decisions remain with local communities and a second talking about the need for science, career and technical education programs. Those ads also ran in Spanish.

With money from the CTA-ABC Fund, CTA is now leading an Independent Expenditure campaign for Tom. Working in coalition, CFT, CFA, CSEA, SEIU, AFSCME and the Building Trades have also contributed to this $2.2 million effort. The coalition paid for voter mail and is running radio ads across the state.

For Patrick O’Donnell in Assembly District 60 in Long Beach, CTA’s ABC spent $250,000 for four pieces of mail and a TV ad.  And where are all the folks from Assembly District 16. Come on, stand up. These people have given new meaning to the terms phone banking and precinct walking as CTA and a coalition of labor organizations have organized the largest field operation probably ever in an Assembly race.

Again, thanks to your ABC funds, the CTA labor coalition is helping Tim by countering the more than $2 million being spent by the corporate special interests supporting Steve Glazer.  The labor coalition has countered with a well-organized Independent Expenditure campaign that includes field, 25 pieces of mail, and advertising online, on the radio and on TV.

We’ve got just two days left. I’m going to ask you to reach out to 20 friends – and your friends in this room don’t count – it must be other people. Call them, text them, tweet them, Facebook them, peddle your bike to their house...however you want to reach them. But tell them to Get Out and Vote. To vote for Tom and all the candidates that support public education. They can use the electronic voter guide on the CTA website to the recommended list. That’s at cta.yourvoterguide.com.

Fair Share

You heard Dean talk about the Fair Share lawsuit, Harris v. Quinn, yesterday. In CTA, we have about 29,000 agency fee payers.

And I really do believe it is a question of not if, but when. Even if the Court rejects Quinn, there are other lawsuits waiting in the wings. Friedrichs vs CTA and many more across the country. It’s a pretty daunting list. It’s why CTA didn’t wait for any decision.

• I appointed a cross-divisional task force of managers back in January to look at the implications for CTA and local chapter.

• Dean and I served on an NEA committee that developed a Fair Share Tool Kit.

• Through our Strategic Plan, CTA has done research, and talked to young members to find out what Member Benefits might incent them to join the association voluntarily.

• We’re updating our data structures to collect better information on members.

• We’ve reached out to other state affiliates, like Michigan, who have lost fair share to learn their lessons.

• We are reviewing and updating Membership trainings and member promotional materials for the new school year.

• We’re organizing for power to engage members and build local capacity.

• And we continue to connect members to the message of fairness, democracy and the essential need for a quality public education system as the foundation for a great society and a better California for all of us.


Strategic Plan

And we’re going to be ready…because of all you and your wisdom of developing a long-term strategic plan for CTA.

As Eric said the Implementation Workgroup of leaders, members, managers and staff has been appointed. We are working hard to identify places where some of the work is already happening, building the reporting structures to collect and share that information and put a realistic timeline together.

CTA managers and staff also have been reviewing and aligning work in accordance with the plan. We have a lot of work ahead of us and the Strategic Plan will guide our way. But we are off to a good start and we are all up to the challenge.

Charter Organizing and Other Updates

Here’s a terrific example. Organizing Unrepresented Workers, including educators in charter schools, is a key part of the plan. It was also a CTA priority this year. Through a grant from NEA we hired an organizer to coordinate that work and a lot is happening statewide.

In what is a significant and actually historic undertaking, we worked with educators teaching through the California Virtual Academy to organize and collect union cards. CAVA is the largest kindergarten thru 12th grade online charter school in California with an enrollment of close to 17,000 students and 700 employees throughout the state.

CAVA is the California expression of the national online company, K-12. K-12 is a for-profit, publicly traded company that provides management, curriculum and technology to CAVA as well as other affiliated online charter schools throughout the Country.

K-12 is very anti-union and driven by the bottom line. The New York Times describes them as “a company that tries to squeeze profits from public school dollars by raising enrollment, increasing teacher workload and lowering standards.”  Only one other attempt to organize K-12 was in Pennsylvania and it failed because the company spent millions to threaten and undermine employee efforts.

Here in California, a team of 50 CAVA educators organized themselves, gathered signatures from a majority of their colleagues and with help from CTA filed the union support petitions with the Public Employment Relations Board earlier this month. PERB will go through a process that will take about two months to verify union support. But what an AMAZING first step! Congratulations to the organizing team.

In other charter organizing activities, CTA has done research to find out what issues motivate educators in charter schools to join a union.

We are planning an exciting training and outreach program this July in the Bay Area. The purpose is to provide leadership development and experience with outreach to non-union educators that members can then bring back to their home locals.

This year, educators at Community Learning Center Schools, a small charter management organization in Alameda organized a union including all classified and certificated educators. They are now bargaining their first contract.

And, CTA has also started regional meetings of union charter school leaders in different parts of the state to talk about how we can coordinate bargaining and address political issues that are important to charter schools. I hope you join me in being pleased with the progress we’ve made toward that charter organizing goal.

Bargaining work and contract settlements continue in hundreds of chapters across the state. Settlements are starting to level off with a lot of one-year contracts the last two months with most salary and benefit increases being around 3 to 5 percent.

The CTA Common Core Seminars ended in May with the last training in Oxnard with 225 participants. In total, the five seminars attracted more than 1,900 educators, ESPs and administrators. IPD staff are now working on a second grant from NEA and other foundations to expand trainings and build a cadre of educators to share instructional strategies and best practices.

Staff continue to help local chapters bargain Memorandums of Understanding to ensure teacher involvement in the implementation of the Common Core standards. In one innovative approach the San Leandro Teachers Association created an Institute for Instructional Innovators and Instructional Innovator Learning Communities. The Instructional Innovator is a teacher leader who is trained to play a major role in the district’s implementation of Common Core or the Next Generation Science Standards. This teacher demonstrates classroom practices and serves as a model for colleagues as they adopt the standards and the new instructional approaches. The agreement provides for stipends of up to $2,500 for the work.

Chapters up and down the state are holding forums and town halls to engage parents and community members in the development of spending priorities for the Local Control Funding Formula and the development of Local Control Accountability Plans. 

In a joint higher education project, the College of the Canyons has received a special NEA grant to focus on the “Recursive Pipeline Into Teaching.” This $450,000 grant, funded over three years, is to develop a partnership working with CSU-Northridge’s Chicano Studies Department to facilitate Latino students into the transition to become educators.

And Big Kudos to the Sacramento City Teachers Association. The phony California Office to Reform Education, otherwise known as CORE, and their NCLB waiver that I talked about last time is DEAD in Sacramento! The union and the district agreed not to re-apply for the CORE waiver next year. Way to send them packing. Great work!

Whew! We are certainly busy. But this is the beauty of CTA, no matter the challenges or the work that needs to be done, I know all of you – our leaders, members, managers and staff are up to the task. I know because we are union activists. We care about the future of public education, our students, and the future of California. We are all social arsonists.

I know, because in the spirit of Gay Pride month and in the words of one of the most courageous and inspirational organizers, Harvey Milk, we are full of hope…and hope will never be silent!


Every child deserves a chance to learn and no child succeeds alone.

© 1999- California Teachers Association