The Pulse

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The Pulse - May 2022

You may have seen in the news that several Seattle Central College professional-technical programs, aka workforce development programs, were on the chopping block – the administration’s “solution” to their budget woes. It is true that the community and technical colleges are hurting due to a significant decline in enrollment across the system during this pandemic, though that decline is not reflected overall in the programs in question. The need to increase enrollment makes the decision to close programs that bring in enrollment all the more troubling, on top of the impact on the people working in the programs, the resulting lack of access to affordable choices to develop a career, and the disregard for the decades of investment in and storied pasts of the program. Read more about that here.

The Pulse - April 2022

Does anyone remember what we were focused on in 2018? The first sentence of my June Pulse letter was “Every Monday morning I wake up and think, “oh shoot…did I sleep through the announcement of the Janus decision???”

If the Freedom Foundation’s slew of public information requests, our member recommitment campaign, or the looming SCOTUS decision don’t spring immediately to mind, let me refresh your memory. The Janus decision was the decision by SCOTUS to end agency fee, meaning that bargaining unit members could reap the benefits of representation but were not required to contribute fees to the cause. The Freedom Foundation and other funders of the lawsuit hoped that the labor movement would die off when starved of members and revenue, leaving workers at the mercy of employers, with no voice or power in their jobs.

The Pulse - March 2022

As is always the case, there is a lot going on. I’m happy to report that our two bills, ESSB 5847 (Public Service Loan Forgiveness) and SB 5539 (healthcare funding for Head Start members) are headed to the Governor’s desk and we have every reason to trust that they’ll be signed. These bills represent significant gains for our members; our Advocacy Team worked smart and hard to get them passed. I especially want to mention HyeEun Park and Anna-Marie Magdalena, brand new members of the team, who were unrelenting in our push for the win.

The strength of our relationships is core to a successful legislative session, and this year we made the most of those relationships. We tapped into our labor siblings, partnered with the employer of our Head Start members, co-conspired with the Student Borrower Protection Center and AFT staff, and engaged our membership to speak to legislators and in hearings. We turned over every stone we could find to win in Olympia.

The Pulse - February 2022

Greetings Friends,

In July of 2020, our executive board passed resolution 2020-04, Becoming an Anti-racist, Unified and Inclusive Union. Leading up to and since then we have initiated new programs and implemented several strategies. In the midst of the divisive political and cultural climate and aggressive efforts to reinforce racist and sexist institutions throughout our society, I’d like to provide a snapshot of the work we’re doing and ways we’re looking at continuing to advance our racial equity goals.

The Pulse - January 2022

Greetings Friends,

I wish I could greet you with a “whew, aren’t we glad we’ve vanquished our foe COVID and have moved into a new year!” Instead, I will convey my appreciation for the work each of you is doing to provide what our students, families and communities need in spite of the tumultuous conditions – the opportunity to learn and grow through education. Thank you!

At the state federation, 2022 is starting off fully staffed for the first time in nearly a year. After significant changes in the last few years, we have a commanding Organizing Team with many years of collective experience, a newly-formed, ambitious and dedicated Advocacy Team, and an Administrative Support Team operating like a finely oiled machine … with the human qualities that bring out the best in all of us. Put it all together and the result is a very busy winter, with trainings, Lobby Day, the Contingent Faculty Issues Conference and ClassCon 2022 (our school related personnel conference) scheduled between now and mid-March.

The Pulse - December 2021

The new year is right around the corner, offering the opportunity to reflect on the last year. Given that we’re approaching the two-year mark of the COVID pandemic, I’m finding myself reflecting on the last two years and experiencing an array of feelings ranging from fatigue to inspiration, worry to optimism. I suspect I’m not alone in that.

Together, the leaders, members and staff of AFT Washington have navigated remarkable challenges and seized opportunities, both expected and unexpected. Think back to March 13th, 2020, when we learned that schools and colleges were shutting down, restaurants closed their doors, and we suddenly cut off most social interactions. Over the course of the following months, we adapted to the circumstances of the moment, then shifted gears to adapt to new circumstances, and then shifted again, and again, and again. Some number of locals were in bargaining nonstop, including regular contract bargaining, impacts of closure and mandated vaccine bargaining, nurse educator and high demand faculty bargaining and other subjects. Legislation, proclamations, and an unpredictable economy made for a Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride experience. These were challenges that we collectively turned into opportunities to mobilize our members, forge cross-union alliances, and improve wages and working conditions.

The Pulse - November 2021

Greetings Friends,

Will student loan debt soon become a thing of the past? For the eight AFT members who joined Randi Weingarten in a lawsuit against Betsy DeVos and the DOE, their debt is a thing of the past! The settlement in the lawsuit included discharge of the plaintiff’s debt and a review of all applications for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program previously rejected. This is a huge victory with a significant impact on our members who are carrying student loan debt. (If that’s you, Summer may be able to help.)

At our workshop on student loan debt last week, we heard the stories of several of our members whose lives are constrained by debt. Anitra, a paraeducator, wants to continue her education and earn her B.A. but is daunted by the debt she holds from her A.A. degree. Discharge of that debt would be a big first step toward her goal. Paul is retired and prior to the workshop anticipated he’d pay off his debt at the age of 80…the PSLF rule changes suggest some of his debt will be discharged much sooner.

The Pulse - October 2021

Greetings Friends,

The 2021-2022 school year is fully under way and the 2022 legislative session is right around the corner. The demands on you as union leaders and educators have been unrelenting since March 2020 and I want to express my deepest gratitude to you for the creative problem solving, solidarity, and commitment to the social contract you have demonstrated during this challenging time. I want to acknowledge our staff as well, who have maintained high expectations around our members’ rights as workers and the education and supports our students deserve.

Although many people are struggling and suffering, we have seen substantial gains. Just yesterday substantial changes to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program were announced, making the program finally accessible to 550,000 borrowers! We’ll be hosting an interactive virtual event in early November on the subject of student loan debt – we need to make sure every one of our members knows about these changes and the resources they can access to improve their personal economy.