(Shreveport – November 18, 2017) Nine local chapters of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers today received the Union Values in Action Award for improving the lives of members, enhancing the influence of the union and advancing the mission of public education.
The award recognizes the efforts of local LFT chapters to promote the union agenda and express commitment to the values that make the Federation the largest professional organization for teachers and school employees in Louisiana.
“This award is presented to local chapters that walk the walk of unionism,” said LFT President Larry Carter. “They have shown us what can be accomplished when we stand true to our principles.
The awards were presented at the 53rd annual LFT convention at the Shreveport Convention Center. Recipients were:
Caldwell Federation of Teachers and School Employees: Grit and determination to build a strong local chapter motivated the Caldwell Federation and President Phyllis Holmes to create an organizational structure that can be a force to reckon with. Starting with a hardy group of eight stalwarts, CFT/SE created a working executive board and set out to increase membership and improve the lives of children in the parish. On the last day of Back-to-School in-service, the local demonstrated their commitment to parish schools by holding a drawing that contributed to the Caldwell High School Color Guard. CFT’s new activism is evident in an unprecedented growth in membership.
Imperial Calcasieu Federation of Teachers: The Calcasieu Federation’s commitment to the children of the parish was epitomized by two back-to-school activities. Partnering with a local church, the Federation contributed 200 backpacks stuffed with school supplies to students at a pep rally that built excitement for the first day of school. The Federation and President Teri Johnson then worked with the Central Labor Council to fund and stock the incentive store for students at a low-performing elementary school. Building partnerships is a hallmark of a successful local chapter, and the Calcasieu Federation does that as well as can be done.
Jefferson Federation of Teachers: No Federation chapter has ever proven more conclusively that it is vital for the union to be politically active. After reclaiming a majority of support on the local school board and regaining collective bargaining rights, JFT and President Cathy Johnson are now moving to win pay raises for all employees. A Community Outreach program has been launched in support of a millage increase that will lift Jefferson teacher salaries from 26th in the state to fifth. The union has a Community Liaison dedicated to keeping the public informed of the approaching millage vote, and is taking the right steps to convince voters that the wellbeing of the entire community hinges on giving educators the respect – and salaries – that they deserve.
Monroe Federation of Teachers and School Employees: A solid grassroots organizing campaign literally paid off when the Monroe Federation helped convince the school board to grant a four percent pay raise for most classified school employees. The long overdue raise came after several years of effort, with MFT/SE and President Sandie Lollie working to develop a strong network of support within the community. By becoming a strong presence in local communities and organizations, the Federation was able to impact a badly needed raise for our brothers and sisters whose average salary is under $24,000 a year.
Rapides Federation of Teachers and School Employees: Providing professional development for teachers and paraprofessionals in Rapides Parish is a crucial component of back-to-school organizing for RFT/SE and President Leona Venson. Partnering with the district administration to provide PD was a win-win situation for the Federation, providing a valuable service for the system and for educators, as well as gaining exposure for the union. Members were able to see RFT/SE as both an advocate for their rights and as a believer in professional advancement. The Federation is looking forward to expanding its provision of professional development services for the school district.
Red River United: A carefully planned and well-researched campaign to win pay raises for Caddo Parish educators resulted in a five percent hike, thanks to efforts by Red River United and President Jackie Lansdale. First, the union identified a need by researching comparative salaries with other districts, relating that to the turnover in Caddo teacher ranks, and pointing out the cost to the system of hiring and training new teachers. That was followed by an intensive, year-long drive to pressure the school board to approve raises. Monthly campaign themes drove home the need to improve Caddo salaries. The union’s entire membership was involved in the effort, culminating in a May school board vote for a five percent raise.
St. Tammany Federation of Teachers and School Employees: the value of a collective bargaining agreement was demonstrated in St. Tammany when, after a five-year freeze on salaries, the Federation and President Debbie Green negotiated a $1,000 stipend for teachers. In continuing negotiations with the school board, the Federation won a thaw in the salary schedule that instantly bumped salaries up two steps for all employees. The renegotiated contract, approved without a dissenting vote on the school board or among employees, included a yearly salary reopener clause allowing the union to bargain for raises each year through 2020, when the current contract expires.
Tangipahoa Federation of Teachers: The Tangipahoa Federation, under the leadership of President Dina Esquinance, worked with the school board to propose three tax millages, one of which would provide a five percent raise for certificated personnel, and a $100 a month raise for all other employees. Incredibly, another teacher organization in the parish announced that it would oppose passage of the raises. TFT ramped up its political activities, meeting with educators in schools, writing letters to the editor, sending urgent messages to members, and urging the public to support the millages. The election is being held today. If the raises pass, educators will have TFT to thank.
United Teachers of New Orleans: How do we respond when the teaching profession is devalued on many fronts, from an overemphasis on testing to over reliance on inexperienced, temporary, out-of-town teachers? Working with the New Orleans Black Teaching Collective, the United Teachers of New Orleans and President Jim Randels are holding a series of workshops to reclaim an education rooted in the beauty, humanity, and critical consciousness of people of color. The aim is to recruit more students of color from New Orleans to join the teaching profession, and to help teachers of all backgrounds to critically examine and improve their pedagogy for black students.