The 81st annual California Federation of Teachers Convention was held at the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Sacramento this year, starting March 15 and ending March 17. Danielle Blanchard, George Torbert, and Mark James Miller attended as delegates from Local 6185.

For us, the highlight of the convention came on the first day, when our local was honored with two first place awards in the annual Communications Award Contest. We won for Best Website, (kudos to Dorran Nadeau, our webmaster!) One of the judges said, “Nice blog-style site that has a clean, uncrowded look.” Mark Miller was also honored with first place in the category of Best Public Relations for the articles he wrote last year in the Santa Maria Times. The judges commented, “Regular op-eds in the local newspaper are a great way to connect with the community…Conducting union education in the pages of the general media is no mean feat.” We are very happy to have been recognized this way and intend to continue with our efforts.

But the convention was about much more than this. The delegates heard rousing speeches from CFT President Josh Pechtalt and Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers (our national union). Delegates attended workshops on subjects as varied as member benefits, retirement planning, and community organizing. Our victories in the 2012 election were celebrated, but the celebratory atmosphere was tempered by the knowledge that more battles lie ahead. Members who worked especially hard in last year’s elections were recognized and honored for their work.

Among the other notable events of this year’s convention:

  • Josh Pechtalt and Jeff Freitas were re-elected as CFT President and Secretary-Treasurer, respectively.
  • A moment of silence was observed for our colleagues who lost their lives to gun violence last year.
  • Jim Mahler from San Diego was elected President of the Community College Council.
  • A resolution was passed supporting a federal ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazines.
  • Another resolution called on CFT to support legislation prohibiting workplace bullying by college administrators.
  • Other resolutions called for universal health care in California, reform of the Community College’s accreditation process, and the appropriate use of online instruction.
  • Reports were given on CFT’s legislative and lobbying efforts. Among the bills CFT is sponsoring is one that would prohibit excessive budget reserves by community college districts. Another seeks to place limits on the amount of overload community college faculty can teach.

There is much more but I think this is enough for now. (For more information you can visit CFT’s website: Next year’s convention is scheduled for March 21–23, in Manhattan Beach, and no doubt it will be as exciting and rewarding as this year’s has been.

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