CTA Executive Director Carolyn Doggett learned her union ideals from her own father, a logger who suffered a head injury on the job. When he was able to return to work two years later, he tried to organize the logging industry and continued to fight for salaries, benefits and safe working conditions.
"Armed width those beliefs, when I took a teaching job in Alaska at the age of 23 in 1969, I immediately got involved in the union as my school's site rep," she told State Council during her Sunday morning comments. Her union activity only escalated from there.
When she was later elected president of her local chapter, the headline in the Anchorage newspaper read: "Teachers Elect Woman." She noted, "I guess you could say I've been an outspoken education activist, feminist and union organizer ever since."
Doggett, who is retiring in June, has faced her own challenges as the first female to serve as CTA's executive director. She recalls meeting then Assembly Speaker Curt Pringle shortly after her appointment in 1995.
"He looked at me kind of puzzled, and the first words out of his mouth were, 'But you're a girl.' I took a deep breath and said, 'You're a boy. Now that we've clarified that, let's talk about what's important for educators and our public schools.' "
Doggett's remarks were made two days before Equal Pay Day, April 9, a date that symbolizes how far into 2013 women must work to earn what men earned in 2012.
"The wage gap remained statistically unchanged last year as women earned 77 cents for every dollar earned by men," she observed.
With public education employees now comprising the largest group of union members in the country — of which about 70 percent of the membership is female — the NEA has emerged as the largest labor union in the United States.
"So it is no coincidence that attacks on labor are targeted at education unions," Doggett said.
On average, Doggett made clear, unionized workers earn 27 percent more than nonunion workers, are 54 percent more likely to have employer-provided pensions, and are more likely to have health insurance. Despite those gains, women workers still lag behind in wages.
"Over a 40-year period, the typical woman who works full time makes $443,000 less than the typical man," Doggett said. "She would have to work another 12 years to make up this gap."
Doggett urged State Council to continue the fight for equal pay for women. But equal pay isn't the only issue that must be resolved widthin and outside the labor movement.
With collective bargaining rights and retirement benefits under attack, it's important for CTA to continue to "educate, agitate and organize," Doggett said, quoting labor leader Fred Ross Sr.
, who mentored César Chávez.
"We have the issues on our side," Doggett said. "We have the ability and the capability to reclaim our public schools, the education profession and the American Dream for everyone."Read Carolyn Doggett's speech to Council April 7, 2013.
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