Could Caucus of Working Educators Oust PFT Leadership?

A new union caucus, Working Educators, has gained a groundswell of support since being founded in March.

City Paper’s Daniel Denvir has a lengthy article today about the Caucus of Working Educators, a 141-member group founded in March that just held its first convention. Denvir compares it to Chicago’s Caucus of Rank and File Educators, which took over the Chicago Teachers Union in 2010 and held a successful, well-supported strike in 2012.

Of course, Philadelphia teachers are banned from striking by state law. But the article paints a picture of a group of teachers upset (or at least disappointed) with PFT leadership. The state takeover of schools in 2001, changing attitudes about unions, and the pro-charter school movement have stripped PFT of a lot of its power.

The current PFT leadership has been in charge in Philadelphia since 1983. The Caucus of Working Educators (WE) isn’t challenging current leadership. But if it did, perhaps a strike could occur, City Paper writes:

For years, many have called on the PFT to strike even though Philadelphia teachers are specifically barred from doing so under the state takeover law. A strike could still be successful, however, given that the state Department of Education’s only means of retaliating would be to revoke teachers’ certifications, and the agency couldn’t decertify thousands. But, given the union’s current level of member engagement, would it be ready to mobilize its members and the community in the streets?

Of course, the teachers’ union is currently fighting a legal battle over the cancelation of contracts (currently put on hold by a court). So don’t expect any intra-union battles soon. But down the road, it appears to be a possibility.

[City Paper]