Fed Rep Reflection #1

March 2017

At the most recent fed rep council meeting, union leadership attempted to address concerns about caucuses, more specifically, the Albuquerque Caucus of Rank-and-File Educators (AlbuCORE). This topic arose shortly, and conveniently, after AlbuCORE declared their intent to run a slate of candidates for the constituency elections this May.

A caucus is a group within a larger organization that shares a common ideology. Ellen, union president, did not exactly state this, but emphasized that caucuses participate in conventions only. This is simply untrue. Caucuses can form and operate anywhere that people share common beliefs, goals and purpose that differ from that of leadership. She also stated that CORE was founded in Chicago not as an oppositional caucus, but a social justice caucus focusing solely on issues in the community. Again, this is misleading. While CORE is founded upon principles of social justice, unionism, and advocating for the rights of our students, families and communities, Chicago CORE is indeed an oppositional caucus. Ellen proved this point when she stated that the caucus ran candidates and eventually took democratic control of the teacher’s union in Chicago. As the caucus opposed the existing leadership, they sought to gain power through democratic means to move the union in a new direction that best represented the members. In discussing Chicago CORE as non-oppositional, Ellen sought to characterize AlbuCORE as exclusively oppositional to undermine us and the work we have done to strengthen our communities.

After this explanation of caucuses, Ellen opened the floor to questions about AlbuCORE. What occurred was not a Q&A session, but an orchestrated attack on AlbuCORE’s recent organizing work and philosophy. Selected members asserted that AlbuCORE is dividing the union, fighting the wrong battles and using the ATF name under false pretenses. This rapidly deteriorated into a battle between AlbuCORE members and those falling directly inline with the agenda of current leadership leaving most fed reps as mere observers to the spectacle.

AlbuCORE responded by defending the legitimacy of caucuses, stating that we believe in the union and the power of the rank-and-file and hope to increase membership and participation through organizing direct action around the issues we face. We are allowed to identify ourselves as members of the ATF local because we are dues paying members. It is also our strong belief that unity does not mean ‘get in line.’ Unity means using egalitarian methods, especially the power of the rank-and-file, to come together and fight for our schools and communities. Other union reps, unaffiliated with AlbuCORE, also spoke to the necessity of including competing approaches and viewpoints.

After this contentious debate, a few things became apparent. One, our union president is quite flexible in following protocol and Robert’s Rules. She has been known to use the rule book to silence dissent or throw it out the window when she feels that a deliberate onslaught against those calling for democracy is in order. Thus, in the future, AlbuCORE will demand that rules be consistently followed. Second, because Ellen called for AlbuCORE to be more public about their ideas, plans and agenda, we have determined that a standing spot on the agenda for our caucus to make announcements is necessary. We are in the process of reaching out to Ellen personally to secure this time. Third, we will now publish a ‘Fed Rep Council Report’ after each meeting to share highlights and the caucus’ collective perspective. As always, we welcome questions, inquiries and democratic discussion to move our union forward.

AlbuCORE Members Present at UNM HEP-CAMP Conference

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On February 24th, teachers, Michelle Perez and Amanda Short, presented the workshop, Activism 101 at the 7th Annual Southwest HEP-CAMP Student Leadership Conference in Santa Fe, NM.

The College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) at the University of New Mexico is 100% federally funded through the U.S. Department of Education. The residential CAMP program was established to identify, recruit, admit, and enroll migrant and seasonal farm worker students and provide them with academic, social, and financial support to enable the completion of their first year of college (http://unmcamp.unm.edu/).

For their workshop the teachers shared their personal experiences of organizing and becoming activists in their communities. Then CAMP students participated in role playing activities to help them assess and determine the needs of their school and community, using the activity, Write Your Own Organizing Conversation from Labor Notes (http://www.labornotes.org/sites/default/files/24WriteYourOwnOrganizingConversation.pdf) to to guide students in practicing these conversations. Students raised many concerns related to racism, ICE raids, and the treatment of minority students. These concerns led to heated discussions and questions about how to activate their communities.

Through Michelle and Amanda’s discussions and activities, students left the workshop with an “activist toolkit” to agitate their respective communities and an understanding of how to start organizing.

2017 VP Candidates

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AlbuCORE Platform

What is our union doing to improve our working conditions?

AlbuCORE seeks to strengthen the contract, increase democracy within the union, build and empower membership and grow our relationships within the community.

Expand Union Democracy

  • Term Limits for Elected Officers – two terms & that’s it
  • Transparent Union Budget – open our books
  • Direct Action Gets Results – mobilize the rank-and-file

Build Member Power and Involvement

  • Dues On A Sliding Scale – equitable dues for all
  • Fair Share Dues – if you’re protected by the union, support the union
  • Contract Education For All – know your rights

Fight for a Stronger Contract

  • Open Negotiations – open the doors and involve the members
  • Reclaim Our Right to Strike – no more clipped wings in our contract
  • Adequate and Equitable Prep and Collaboration Time for Teachers – all teachers
  • Cost of Living Increases – stop the pay cuts

Strengthen Our Communities

  • Defend Vulnerable Populations – safe schools for immigrant, refugee and LGBTQ students, staff & families
  • Fight Budget Cuts – fully fund our schools

 

Albuquerque Caucus of Rank and File Educators (AlbuCORE) is an organization of social justice educators and unionists committed to creating schools and workplaces that advance economic justice, racial justice, and democracy. We call for equitable public education as a human right. We assert that the workplace rights of educators are an essential element of public education and that the well-being of communities in which our children live is as much a part of our mission as the work we do in our schools. If you are an educator who values union democracy & social justice we invite you to join us.