Person

Zeph Capo

Organization:

Houston Federation of Teachers and Texas American Federation of Teachers

Zeph Capo is a labor union official and president of the Texas American Federation of Teachers (Texas AFT) and the Houston Federation of Teachers, affiliates of the national American Federation of Teachers union. Capo was an outspoken opponent of the Texas government’s decision to reopen schools in the fall of 2020 with a flexible mask policy during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Education

Zeph Capo attended a community college for two years[1] and then transferred to the Florida International University where he earned a degree in international relations in 1994. In 2015, Capo earned a master’s degree in public administration from the University of Texas, Pan American. [2]

Career

Zeph Capo worked as a science teacher[3] for six years before becoming a full-time union administrator. [4] From 1992 to 1997, he worked at the public school district in Miami-Dade, Florida. Capo then worked for a year at the Austin Independent School District in Texas. [5]

In 1998, Capo began working full-time for the Houston Federation of Teachers (HFT), the largest teachers union in Houston[6] and a member organization of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT). [7] Capo was a union representative until 2011 and then became director[8] until eventually being elected the HFT’s president. He remains in that position as of October 2020. [9]

At some point, Capo also became the president of the Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation, the Houston-arm of the Texas AFL-CIO. In 2018, Capo led unexpected opposition from labor unions against Lizzie Pannill Fletcher (D-TX), who ran for office in Texas’s 7th District against nine-term Republican incumbent John Culberson (R-TX). Capo wrote a letter to the Harris County Democratic Party accusing Fletcher’s law firm, AZA, of intimidating immigrant workers. The firm had previously represented plaintiffs in a lawsuit against a union affiliated with the Texas AFL-CIO which had resulted in the union paying $5.3 million in damages. The Texas AFL-CIO ultimately endorsed no candidate in the election, though Fletcher would win by 5 percentage points. [10]

From 2014 to 2019, Capo served on the board of trustees of the Houston Community College. [11]

In July 2019, Capo was elected president for a two-year term of the Texas American Federation of Teachers,[12] which represents 65,000 teachers throughout Texas. [13]

COVID-19 Pandemic

As president of the Texas AFT and Houston Federation of Teachers, Zeph Capo has been an outspoken critic of measures to resume in-person attendance of public schools. In June, the Texas Education Agency under Governor Greg Abbott (R) mandated that students across Texas could return to in-person classes in the fall with the option to take digital classes, but that mask policies would be determined by each district. [14]

In response, Capo issued a letter criticizing the Agency’s plan for a lack of clarity. He stated:[15]

[The policies leave teachers and parents] scared for themselves and their families and increasingly angry at what looks like an irresponsible and politically motivated decision. Texas AFT is a big hell no to what looks like a return to normal in August. We won’t sacrifice our staff and students for politics, so I hope some clarification follows this very soon. [16]

The letter also asked the state to allow teachers to make individual decisions to return to the classroom or even to retire and break their contracts without penalty. [17]

Throughout the late summer and fall, Capo organized Texas ATF’s efforts to oppose the Agency’s decision, including launching protests in Houston, Dallas, Cedar Hill, El Paso, Socorro, Austin, Judson, South Texas, and San Antonio. [18] In August, Cy-Fair AFT, the professional development arm of Texas AFT, successfully obtained a legal injunction against the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District to stop the administration from requiring its teachers to enter school buildings before September 7. [19] The injunction was later struck down by the Texas Supreme Court. [20]

On September 2, the Texas AFT sued Luther Burbank High School for placing teacher Luke Amphlett on administrative leave for conducting union activities on school property in the form of openly opposing the school reopening. [21]

The Texas AFT has partnered with United for Respect, a project of the United Food and Commercial Workers, to run a state-wide COVID-tracking system. [22]

In an open letter on September 16, Capo accused the Texas state government of fighting to limit union membership so that they might reduce school budgets, privatize government worker pensions, and impose their COVID-19 policies against the will of teachers. [23]

Election Endorsements

Under Capo, in the 2020 election the Texas ATF endorsed 11 Democratic Congressmen, 10 Democratic State Senators, 80 Democratic State Representatives, and three Democratic state board of education candidates. The organization endorsed no Republican Congressmen, State Senators, or board of education members, but did endorse 13 Republican Texas State Representatives. [24]

References

  1. “Zeph Capo.” AFT. Accessed October 19, 2020. https://www.aft.org/about/leadership/zeph-capo#:~:text=Zeph%20Capo%2C%20a%20public%20school,vice%20president%20and%20legislative%20director.&text=In%202011%2C%20Capo%20spearheaded%20community,effect%20change%20in%20a%20community.. ^
  2. “Zeph Capo.” LinkedIn. Accessed October 19, 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/in/zeph-capo-34b48015/. ^
  3. “Zeph Capo.” AFT. Accessed October 19, 2020. https://www.aft.org/about/leadership/zeph-capo#:~:text=Zeph%20Capo%2C%20a%20public%20school,vice%20president%20and%20legislative%20director.&text=In%202011%2C%20Capo%20spearheaded%20community,effect%20change%20in%20a%20community.. ^
  4. “Zeph Capo.” AFT. Accessed October 19, 2020. https://www.aft.org/about/leadership/zeph-capo#:~:text=Zeph%20Capo%2C%20a%20public%20school,vice%20president%20and%20legislative%20director.&text=In%202011%2C%20Capo%20spearheaded%20community,effect%20change%20in%20a%20community.. ^
  5. “Zeph Capo.” LinkedIn. Accessed October 19, 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/in/zeph-capo-34b48015/. ^
  6. “About.” Houston Federation of Teachers. Accessed October 19, 2020. https://hft2415.org/about/. ^
  7. “Houston Federation of Teachers.” American Federation of Teachers. Accessed October 19, 2020. https://www.texasaft.org/local/houston/. ^
  8. “American Federation of Teachers (AFT).” UnionFacts.com. Accessed October 19, 2020. https://www.unionfacts.com/local/employee/543348/AFT/2415/ZEPH/CAPO/. ^
  9. “Zeph Capo.” LinkedIn. Accessed October 19, 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/in/zeph-capo-34b48015/. ^
  10. Kadifa, Margaret. “One of the Most Influential Unions in Texas Just Came Out Against a Rising Democratic Contender.” Mother Jones. February 1, 2018. Accessed October 19, 2020. https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2018/02/one-of-the-most-influential-unions-in-texas-just-came-out-against-a-rising-democratic-contender/. ^
  11. “Zeph Capo.” LinkedIn. Accessed October 19, 2020. https://www.linkedin.com/in/zeph-capo-34b48015/. ^
  12. Sills, Ed. “Congratulations to Zeph Capo on First Day at Work as Texas AFT President.” Texas AFLCIO. July 2, 2019. Accessed October 19, 2020. https://www.texasaflcio.org/working-texas/congratulations-zeph-capo-first-day-work-texas-aft-president. ^
  13. Taboada, Melissa B. “TEA commissioner: Amid COVID, students will be back in seats this fall.” Statesman News. June 18, 2020. Accessed October 19, 2020. https://www.statesman.com/news/20200618/tea-commissioner-amid-covid-students-will-be-back-in-seats-this-fall. ^
  14. Taboada, Melissa B. “TEA commissioner: Amid COVID, students will be back in seats this fall.” Statesman News. June 18, 2020. Accessed October 19, 2020. https://www.statesman.com/news/20200618/tea-commissioner-amid-covid-students-will-be-back-in-seats-this-fall. ^
  15. Taboada, Melissa B. “TEA commissioner: Amid COVID, students will be back in seats this fall.” Statesman News. June 18, 2020. Accessed October 19, 2020. https://www.statesman.com/news/20200618/tea-commissioner-amid-covid-students-will-be-back-in-seats-this-fall. ^
  16. Taboada, Melissa B. “TEA commissioner: Amid COVID, students will be back in seats this fall.” Statesman News. June 18, 2020. Accessed October 19, 2020. https://www.statesman.com/news/20200618/tea-commissioner-amid-covid-students-will-be-back-in-seats-this-fall. ^
  17. Bustamante, Roxie. “Students returning to school in the fall may need to be re-evaluated, union president says.” 13 Eyewitness News. June 24, 2020. Accessed October 19, 2020. https://abc13.com/tea-education-texas-educators-funding/6265306/. ^
  18. Capo, Zeph. “A Letter from Texas AFT President Zeph Capo.” Texas AFT. September 16, 2020. Accessed October 19, 2020. https://www.texasaft.org/amp/a-letter-from-texas-aft-president-zeph-capo/. ^
  19. “Cy-Fair AFT sues district to halt in-person professional development.” Texas AFT. Accessed October 19, 2020. https://www.texasaft.org/releases/cy-fair-aft-sues-district-to-halt-in-person-professional-development/. ^
  20. Capo, Zeph. “A Letter from Texas AFT President Zeph Capo.” Texas AFT. September 16, 2020. Accessed October 19, 2020. https://www.texasaft.org/amp/a-letter-from-texas-aft-president-zeph-capo/. ^
  21. “Burbank teacher placed on administrative leave in clear violation of First Amendment rights.” San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel. September 2, 2020. Accessed October 19, 2020. https://www.sanantonioalliance.org/post/burbank-teacher-placed-on-administrative-leave-in-clear-violation-of-first-amendment-rights. ^
  22. Capo, Zeph. “A Letter from Texas AFT President Zeph Capo.” Texas AFT. September 16, 2020. Accessed October 19, 2020. https://www.texasaft.org/amp/a-letter-from-texas-aft-president-zeph-capo/. ^
  23. Capo, Zeph. “A Letter from Texas AFT President Zeph Capo.” Texas AFT. September 16, 2020. Accessed October 19, 2020. https://www.texasaft.org/amp/a-letter-from-texas-aft-president-zeph-capo/. ^
  24. “2020 Endorsements.” Texas AFT. Accessed October 19, 2020. https://www.texasaft.org/campaigns/election-2020/2020-endorsements/. ^

Connected Organizations

  1. American Federation of Teachers (AFT) (Labor Union)
    Vice President
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