February 2020 Advocate: How Your Union COPES


How Your Union COPES

COPE, AFT 1493’s political action committee, supports Board of Trustees candidates

Katharine Harer, AFT 1493 Vice President, COPE Chair & Outreach Organizer

Your union is doing a lot of COPE*-ING these days as we prepare for a very important Board of Trustees election this November. [* C.O.P.E. stands for Committee on Political Education.] Two open seats — one in Area 1 (from Pacifica to Half Moon Bay and including San Carlos and Atherton) and the other in Area 5 (Redwood City, Menlo Park and East Palo Alto) – give our union a seriously golden opportunity. We have a chance to bring in two pro-labor, pro-education board members who will: 1) listen carefully to faculty and staff and take our working conditions seriously, and 2) think for themselves rather than being manipulated by higher administration. Given the year we’ve spent in bargaining, it’s pretty clear we need to make some strategic improvements to our board. A board can make recommendations to the Chancellor and give direction to the District bargaining team. We could use some of that right now.

Please join COPE to elect pro-faculty Trustees

To back up a little for those of you who aren’t yet members of COPE, here’s how it works: SMCCD faculty members join at any level they choose –from $2/month up to $25 or more/month. The money is deducted from our paychecks monthly, pre-taxed at the district and deposited into a credit union account that belongs to AFT 1493 COPE, and our union can only access funds from this account if COPE members vote to contribute a specific sum to a candidate who’s running for election.

The process goes like this: Once we’ve identified the candidate(s) we want to elect to our board, we invite them to come to our AFT Executive Committee monthly members’ meeting where they are interviewed by the Executive Committee (EC.) The next step is to vote to endorse or not to endorse. If the AFT EC endorses the candidate(s), we invite them to a reception, or forum, to meet our COPE members. At the same time, we send information about the candidates we’ve vetted and recommended to every COPE member. Then we ask our COPE members to vote (via email) on whether to endorse and, in some cases, whether to contribute a specific amount from our COPE fund to the candidate’s campaign. Having a COPE fund gives our union the legal ability to support board candidates who don’t have personal wealth to run their campaigns and helps provide needed diversity on our board. It’s important to know that our union can’t legally spend any of our members’ dues on elections. Thus, AFT 1493 COPE is established as a separate organization with the express purpose to fund political activities, primarily candidates for the SMCCD Board of Trustees.

Over the past few years, we’ve built up our COPE membership from about 20 current and retired faculty — a third of whom were no longer, I’m sad to say, alive — to nearly 100 members, all of whom are among the living who are helping to make our COPE fund viable. Out of a faculty of nearly 800, we can, and should, do better than that. So if you haven’t joined COPE, it’s easy, quick and you can pick any level of contribution that suits your budget. The COPE form is on the AFT 1493 website, but you’ll need to print it and put it in campus mail to the AFT office OR email me (harer@aft1493.org) and I’ll hand deliver a form to you and hand carry it to the AFT office. I will. It’s that important.

Looking for candidates for November

Here’s a quick progress report on our search for candidates to fill the two open board seats. Since last summer, AFT President, Joaquin Rivera, Executive Secretary, Paul Bissember, and I have interviewed a handful of possible candidates. We have a few others we’re interested in and have yet to meet in person, and we plan to do those interviews soon. In our research, we’ve asked for recommendations from other Bay Area education unions, including CCSF, UESF, SFSU and Mission/West Valley and from folks involved in local politics in San Mateo County. Current SMCCD employees can’t run for our board, but retirees can.
As of this writing, we haven’t settled on any candidates yet. If you live in the county or have friends or family or colleagues who do, you can help us identify the right candidates for our two open seats. Just email me a name and I’ll do the follow up.

The filing dates for candidates go from mid-July to the first week of August. That gives us about five months to find the right people for the job. Improving our board strengthens our ability to help our faculty, so this is really about all of us. Please consider joining COPE today! And think about who you might know who would make a good member of the SMCCD board. A good board can make the difference between a protracted and ugly contract battle and a peaceful and collaborative process that ends up benefiting all faculty members.