Labor Union

Philadelphia Federation of Teachers

Website:

www.pft.org/

Tax-Exempt Status:

501(c)(5)

Website:

https://www.pft.org/

Type:

Labor Union

Location:

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

President:

Jerry Jordan

Teachers Unions

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) is a left-leaning local teachers’ union representing teachers and other school system employees in the Philadelphia public school system. The union is a chapter of the large national teachers’ union the American Federation of Teachers and is identified as AFT Local 3. The union is also a member of the American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).

The PFT negotiates a collective bargaining agreement with the school system and administers benefits including dental and vision insurance. The union also endorses candidates for state and local offices and judgeships in Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, consistently lending its endorsement to Democratic candidates. [1] [2]

Background

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers was formed in the 1940s and currently represents more than 13,000 public school teachers and employees in Philadelphia. Non-teacher school employees represented by the union include librarians, school nurses, counselors, psychologists and social workers, secretaries, paraprofessionals, classroom assistants, non-teaching assistants, supportive services assistants, Head Start/Comprehensive Early Learning Center and Bright Futures teachers and staff, food service managers, and professional and technical employees. [3]

The main focuses of the PFT include lobbying and making political endorsements in addition to negotiating the collective bargaining agreement with the Philadelphia school system that sets employee salaries, benefits, and raises. [4] [5]

Political Stances

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers is active in lobbying for and against local and state legislation. The union supports Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf’s (D) proposals to increase education funding by $200 million. Over the years the PFT has also taken stances opposing many right-of-center proposals including elimination of property taxes and the expansion of charter schools. The union has also been consistently vocal in its opposition to teacher evaluation programs, including opposition to base any sort of teacher evaluation programs on student performance. [6]

The 2021 legislative platform for the organization includes support for raising local corporate taxes, support for Gov. Wolf’s proposals for $1 billion in funding for facilities, and support for congressional approval of the federal infrastructure package, as well as inclusion of the Rebuilding America’s Schools Act as part of the infrastructure bill. [7]

The union also supports measures restricting charter schools including support for a moratorium on new charter schools, opposition to school voucher programs such as the Educational Improvement Tax Credit (EITC) and Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). [8] [9]

Controversies

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has received criticism from the right-libertarian leaning Cato Institute over “ghost teachers,” a common public-sector union benefit through which the union’s contract with the government allows for certain union officials to take fully paid public salaries and benefits while working primarily for the union. The practice is officially known as release time. As of 2016, the Philadelphia school system paid 16 employees a total of $1.5 million annually and all of the union officials make at least $81,000. PFT Vice President Arlene Kempin has been on release time since 1983 and earned $108,000 in 2016 while union president Jerry Jordan has been on release time for more than 35 years and earns over $80,000 from the school system. [10]

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, like many other teachers’ unions, led a protracted negotiation with the school system over reopening schools amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The union at first demanded that all staff be able to access vaccines prior to returning to work before softening its stance and agreeing to a partial return to the classroom in March 2021. The union later negotiated with the school system and ultimately supported a vaccine mandate for school employees while still supporting universal masking. [11]

Activities

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers has a campaign arm called PFT Votes that publicizes endorsements of the union for local offices and signs up union members to volunteer to campaign for its endorsed candidates. During the 2020 election cycle, the union endorsed exclusively democratic candidates in the city of Philadelphia as well as Montgomery County, Chester County, Delaware County, and Bucks County. [12]

Fund our Facilities Coalition

The PFT is also a member of the Fund Our Facilities Coalition, a coalition of left-leaning labor groups and politicians advocating for increases in school infrastructure funding across Pennsylvania. As of January 2021, the coalition is calling for an immediate $200 million investment to fund school building improvements solely in Philadelphia including COVID-related upgrades such as overhauled ventilation systems. [13]

Members of the Fund Our Facilities Coalition include the A. Philip Randolph Institute, ACLU Pennsylvania, AFSCME 1199c, American Federation of Teachers Pennsylvania, the Allegheny Labor Federation, the American Federation of Teachers, For Our Future PA PAC, Pennsylvania AFL-CIO, Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO, Philadelphia Jobs With Justice, Philaposh, Philly Healthy Schools Initiative, Public Interest Law Center, Seafarers International, SEIU 668, Working America, and the Working Families Partnership. [14]

PFT Health and Welfare Fund

The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers also operates a separate organization called the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers Health and Welfare Fund, which administers union-negotiated employee benefit programs including prescription reimbursement, dental, vision, long term disability, professional development, and retirement counseling. [15]

Leadership

Jerry Jordan has been the president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers since 2008 and first joined the union as a district staff representative in 1987. He later was a legislative representative on the PFT executive board and was elected general vice president of the union in 1989. From 1990 to 2007, Jordan was the staff director for the PFT and was elected to fill the unexpired term of the previous president in June 2007. Since 2000, Jordan has been the chief negotiator on its collective bargaining with the school system. He is also a vice president on the executive council of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), chair of the AFT standing committee on civil and human rights and a member of the AFT constitutional amendments and convention committee. He has previously served on the AFT Teachers program and policy council, the AFT urban schools initiative and the AFT task force on No Child Left Behind. He is also a vice president of the Philadelphia Central Labor Council and the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO. Jordan also served on the board of the mayor’s office of community services, appointed by former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter (D). [16]

References

  1. “About the PFT.” Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. Accessed September 25, 2021. https://www.pft.org/about-the-pft ^
  2. “PFT Legislative Memos.” Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. Accessed September 25, 2021.  https://www.pft.org/action/pft-legislative-memos ^
  3. “About the PFT.” Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.” Accessed September 25, 2021. https://www.pft.org/about-the-pft ^
  4. “PFT Legislative Memos.” Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. Accessed September 25, 2021.  https://www.pft.org/action/pft-legislative-memos ^
  5. “About the PFT.” Philadelphia Federation of Teachers.” Accessed September 25, 2021. https://www.pft.org/about-the-pft ^
  6. “Request for Delay on Teacher Evaluation Legislation.” Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. Accessed September 25, 2021.  http://pft.pa.aft.org/sites/default/files/article_pdf_files/2020-10/pft3teacherevalmemo-1.pdf ^
  7.  “PFT Legislative Memos.” Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. Accessed September 25, 2021.  https://www.pft.org/action/pft-legislative-memos ^
  8. PFT Health and Welfare Fund.” Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. Accessed September 25, 2021. https://www.pft.org/pft-health-welfare-fund ^
  9. “PFT Legislative Memos.” Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. Accessed September 25, 2021.  https://www.pft.org/action/pft-legislative-memos ^
  10. Bedrick, Jason. “Philly Pays $1.5 Million to ‘Ghost Teachers.’” Cato Institute. April 28, 2016. Accessed September 25, 2021. https://www.cato.org/blog/philly-pays-15-million-ghost-teachers ^
  11. “Wolfman-Arent, Avi. “District, teachers union reach deal to reopen some Philly school buildings.” WHYY. March 1, 2021. Accessed September 25, 2021. https://whyy.org/articles/district-teachers-union-reach-deal-to-reopen-some-philly-school-buildings/ ^
  12. “2020 Endorsed Candidates.” PFT Votes. Accessed September 25, 2021. https://web.archive.org/web/20201022225358/https://www.pftvotes.org/endorsed-candidates ^
  13. “Fund Our Facilities Coalition.” Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. Accessed September 25, 2021. https://www.pft.org/fund-our-facilities?redirect_count=1 ^
  14. “Fund Our Facilities Coalition.” Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. Accessed September 25, 2021. https://www.pft.org/fund-our-facilities?redirect_count=1 ^
  15. “PFT Health and Welfare Fund.” Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. Accessed September 25, 2021. https://www.pft.org/pft-health-welfare-fund ^
  16. “Jerry Jordan.” American Federation of Teachers.” Accessed September 25, 2021. https://www.aft.org/about/leadership/jerry-t-jordan ^

Directors, Employees & Supporters

  1. Ted Kirsch
    Former President
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