Faculty protesters arrested during CFT convention

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The California Federation of Teachers convention started off with a bang on March 11 in San Francisco, where hundreds of convention delegates rallied with faculty, staff and students of City College of San Francisco for affordable, high-quality public education and in support of CCSF faculty's fight for a decent contract in the face of an accreditation crisis. Participants marched from the convention hall to the law offices of the college's chief negotiator, where 30 activists blocked the doors and were arrested, drawing widespread news coverage of the event and, more importantly, bringing attention to the crisis at CCSF.

"I'm proud to be part of a union that cares so deeply about social justice," said Malaika Finkelstein, a delegate from AFT 2121, CCSF's faculty union and one of the volunteers to commit civil disobedience. "It showed in our discussions, workshops and resolutions and in our actions in the street."

Marchers during CFT convention rallyAFT 2121 members showed up in force at the march and rally, but their efforts have gone far beyond street demonstrations: They overwhelmingly passed a strike authorization vote March 8, taking a firm stand on contract negotiations that have fallen short. The vote reflects the faculty's fierce fight for stability at the college, which has suffered since its accreditation was called into question by a rogue agency—the Association Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges—now under investigation. The college's enrollment dipped dramatically when its accreditation was questioned, and it is still recovering.

"The very future of City College is at stake," said AFT 2121 President Tim Killikelly in a message to members. "The continuation of the status quo would mean a significant reduction in the size of the college and the diversity of programs offered. By voting to strike, if necessary, faculty are clearly demonstrating that we will do what we must to stand up for CCSF and the quality of education at our college."

More than 800 faculty cast ballots, and 92 percent voted to authorize the union's executive board to call a strike, should contract negotiations fail. "Faculty will not stand for business as usual," said Killikelly. "This overwhelming vote should be a wake-up call."

The CFT convention continued with a theme that reflected AFT 2121's fight: "Activate Labor for Justice." For more details, go to CFT's news page.

[Virginia Myers, CFT reports/CFT photo]