Published in the March 26, 2016 Santa Maria Times.

Activate Labor For Justice was the theme of the 74th annual California Federation of Teachers Convention in San Francisco. While there was a great deal of rain coming down outside, it did not dampen the spirit or the enthusiasm of the more than 600 delegates, staff and guests, all of whom came determined to continue labor’s fight for justice.

The convention is always an exciting experience, and 2016 was no exception. The Part-Time Faculty Association of Allan Hancock College sent four delegates — Danielle Blanchard, drama teacher; Jeff Stein, counselor; David Yundt, math teacher and first time attendee; and me.

The Part-Time Faculty Association has won many awards in the past, but this year we received a special honor — a First Honor Membership Growth Award for increasing our membership by 27 percent in 2015, more than any other local in California.

But that isn’t all. The Part-Time Faculty also won five Communication Awards — first place for Best Single Effort, first place for Best Bulletin Series, second place for Best Website, second place for Best Public Relations, and third place for Best Editorial or Column. These awards are presented yearly to locals and individuals who have been especially successful in communicating the union’s goals and ideals, both to the public and to other union members. As always, the PFA is very proud and honored to have received these awards.

The convention always covers a great deal of ground in a short time. Delegates were able to attend workshops on topics varying from retirement and campus and classroom safety, to labor and climate change. We were also treated to speeches from Legislator of the Year Jose Medina, D-Riverside, who is chair of the state Assembly’s Higher Education Committee, and Phil Ting, D-San Francisco, who spoke at the Community College Council meeting on the need to increase funding to community colleges and give more students an opportunity for higher education.

On the first day of the convention delegates braved the rain and held a march and rally to support the City College of San Francisco (CCSF), which has been engaged in an ongoing battle with the Accreditation Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. The latter has been attempting to close CCSF, despite the fact that this would deprive approximately 100,000 students of an education. The march was a great success and was a reminder that the teachers of CCSF are not alone in their fight to keep CCSF open.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the American Federation of Teachers, so it was fitting that the most rousing and passionate speech of all came from AFT Randi Weingarten, who has been president of the AFT since 2008, and reminded delegates that the AFT fights for a vision of America far different from that of the Koch brothers or the Walton family, who think the free market rules everything and instead of using their wealth to help education, are instead using it to try to destroy public education as well as public employee unions and replacing them with non-unionized charter schools. She also promised that the AFT would be with the CFT every step of the way as we keep up the struggle here in California.

Next year’s convention will be held in Sacramento. The Part-Time Faculty Association will be looking forward to attending another exciting event as we continue to do our part to activate labor for justice.

Mark James Miller, President, Part-Time Faculty Association of Allan Hancock College, CFT Local 6185, Santa Maria, CA