Federation chapters demonstrate their values

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These activities exemplify what the Federation stands for 

(Baton Rouge – November 18, 2012) Six 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.

“These Federation chapters exemplify what the LFT stands for,” said LFT President Steve Monaghan. “The Union Values in Action Award serves as an inspiration and a road map for other chapters around the state. It shows how much can be accomplished when we are true to the principles that led us into the union movement in the first place.”

The awards were presented at the 48th annual LFT convention at the Hilton Baton Rouge Capitol Center.

Jefferson Federation of Teachers: Faced with relentless opposition from a newly-elected, anti-union school board, the Jefferson Federation and President Meladie Munch stood with teachers, holding fast to union values and professional dignity. The board’s assaults included firing some 78 veteran teachers without due cause, and furloughing all teachers and school employees in violation of law. To date the union has been vindicated in court four times. School employees have already been awarded the back pay they are owed. Just a week ago, a state appeal court upheld a ruling in favor teachers, and their back pay should be awarded soon.

Rapides Federation of Teachers and School Employees: After the Federation’s newsletter exposed cronyism and nepotism on the part of the superintendent of schools and some board members, the union was prohibited, from distributing literature in the schools – the first such ban in 30 years. President Leona Venson and her members turned to political action, and convinced voters to replace two board members. The new members allied with three union-friendly incumbents and restored the union’s right to communicate with employees. The new coalition terminated the former superintendent, and a replacement is expected to be named by mid-December.

Red River United: This newly amalgamated union elevated employee engagement to new heights with two initiatives. The first, a symposium series aimed at addressing the confusion and anxiety of recently passed legislation, presented unique opportunities to brand the organization as passionate and proactive. The second, a New Teacher Academy for both new and veteran educators, is a monthly series of seminars that address changes in public education due to recent legislation. The courses are NCLB compliant and approved by the Caddo Parish School Board for CLU credit. These initiatives have helped Red Rive United President Jackie Lansdale generate significant membership growth and identify new workplace leaders.

St. Landry Federation of Teachers: St. Landry Federation of Teachers President Janice Mason and writer Mel LeCompte launched a blog that educators in the parish have made their go-to source for information and a chance to vent about important issues. The time is certainly right: the St. Landry School Board is embroiled in a scandal that is custom made for bloggers, and the ongoing antics of the State Department of Education make easy targets for the enterprising Web site. There is substance along with the entertainment: potential members can find a membership application on the site. The Federation’s blog is gaining traction – their most recent post garnered some 30 comments from parish educators.

St. Tammany Federation of Teachers: At the urging of the St. Tammany Federation and President Elsie Burkhalter, the parish school board took a stand against the arrogance of the State Department of Education and Superintendent John White. With the union’s support, the St. Tammany board is one of just four in the state to flaunt White’s decree that new Reduction in Force policies be created that eliminate seniority as a factor. The board insists that commitment and dedicated service must remain among its top priorities. The superintendent responded by calling out St. Tammany in a press release. But the board is holding firm, proving to the rest of the state that when a school board and its employees have a united front, tyranny doesn’t have a chance.

United Teachers of New Orleans: Because charter school teachers are “at will” employees, they have very little protection if they dare to point out violations of law or policy by administrators. Those who bring issues to light are in danger of being fired or not having their contracts renewed. In response, United Teachers of New Orleans President Larry Carter took a first step toward correcting the problem, working with State Rep. James Armes on a bill to double the penalty for charter schools that punish whistleblowers. Although the bill was killed in the House Education Committee, the issue boosted organizing efforts and let teachers know that they have an ally in the union. President Carter and LFT Legislative Director Mary-Patricia Wray vow to bring the issue back in future legislative sessions.