Established in March 2014 as a rank-and-file caucus of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, the Caucus of Working Educators (WE) consists of counselors, nurses, teachers, para-professionals, non-teaching assistants, secretaries, psychologists, librarians, and support staff who work with students in the Philadelphia public school system, and who seek to advance leftist political and social agendas. Defining itself as “a social justice caucus that opposes institutional racism,” WE aims to develop “a transformative curriculum and pedagogy” that promotes “systemic change” in the city’s education apparatus.
WE’s politics are socialist. In April 2015, for instance, the Caucus collaborated with Philly Socialists – an organization that seeks to “fundamentally change American society” and make it purely “socialist” – in sponsoring an event titled “Revitalizing a Labor Movement.” In July 2016, WE leader Ismael Jimenez spoke at a “Socialist Convergence” conference on the topic of “Capitalism in Crisis.”
WE has been outspoken on a number of political and social issues, including environmentalism. Embracing the premise that the greenhouse-gas emissions associated with human industrial activity are chiefly responsible for what WE views as the potentially catastrophic phenomenon of global warming/climate change, the Caucus was one of more than 60 organizations to participate in a massive People’s Climate March in New York City in September 2014.
Viewing America as a nation awash in racism and discrimination directed against nonwhites, WE in September 2015 formed a Racial Justice Organizing Committee “to tackle and organize around the issues surrounding racial inequality.” Such inequality, said the Caucus, is commonly manifested in “the slow recruitment of teachers of color,” “the steady reduction of teachers of color in the workforce,” and “unfair disciplinary practices that suspend students of color at a higher rate” than whites. These “punitive policies which push students into the school-to-prison pipeline” are, by WE’s telling, malicious “attacks … on low-income students and communities of color.”
To help address the problem of white racism in America, WE has developed a special curriculum designed to promote the agendas of Black Lives Matter, a movement founded by Marxist revolutionaries who view white police officers as racist oppressors who merit only contempt from minority communities. In January 2017, WE organized an initiative where nearly 100 Philadelphia teachers (from kindergarten through 12th grade) spent a week teaching lessons and leading activities “based on the principles of the Black Lives Matter movement.” Moreover, the teachers were encouraged to wear T-shirts bearing the slogan “Black Lives Matter.” According to a report in the Daily Caller, classroom activities ranged “from ‘The Revolution Is Always Now’ coloring pages for the younger kids, to a science lesson about the biology of skin color for the older ones,” and “the focus was on imbuing children with a heightened awareness of alleged racial inequalities and white privilege, fostering feelings of resentment and guilt.” One English teacher who objected to these WE activities stirred controversy by saying, “I don’t think kids should be taught that Western society is perpetrating a war on black people.”
WE has been a vocal supporter of immigration reform policies that would weaken border security and pave a pathway toward amnesty for the millions of illegal aliens currently residing in the United States. Among other things, the Caucus supports the “sanctuary” policies that hundreds of U.S. cities and towns have adopted to protect illegal immigrants from law-enforcement authorities. In 2016, WE protested against U.S. Senator Pat Toomey’s campaign to cut federal funding for sanctuary cities. Further, WE has promoted the idea that Philadelphia should formally declare that it is establishing a “sanctuary school district.”
In 2016, WE sponsored a Summer Reading series whose participants read (and subsequently discussed) Illegal People: How Globalization Creates Migration and Criminalizes Immigrants. As a Publishers Weekly review puts it, this book argues that capitalism is ultimately to blame for illegal immigration because “displacement and migration are two perennially necessary ingredients” of free-market economic policies that exploit “vulnerable” people with “undocumented or guest-worker status.” One participant in WE’s book-discussion group reported that its members addressed such themes as “neoliberalism and what it looks like in the U.S. and abroad”; “the causes of migration and the experiences low-wage immigrant workers in the United States”; “how the capitalist quest for low wage workers benefits from a political system that creates classes of people with few rights”; “the ways that undocumented Latino and Black workers have been systematically divided and pit against each other by the agricultural, construction, and hospitality industries”; and “how white supremacist capitalism causes this divide-and-conquer strategy between workers.”
In December 2016, WE organized and sponsored a forum that, according to The Notebook, a publication of the Philadelphia public school system, offered advice about how family members and school staffers should respond if “an undocumented child in your community is grabbed off the street” by the Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, or “if immigration officials show up at a school, demanding to search for undocumented students.” Those attending this WE forum were given an opportunity to procure a report by the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition titled, “What Does the 2016 Election [of President Donald Trump] Mean for Immigrant Communities?” Coalition representative Maria Sotomayor – an illegal alien herself – gave a presentation in which she lamented that: “a lot of kids … were very angry” about the election result; “our families were scared”: and “people stopped going to work or sending their kids to schools because they thought immigration [officials] would come and get them.” According to The Notebook, Sotomayor “recalled being devastated by the [election] results because she didn’t know how to tell her little sister that the man who waged a campaign largely based on scapegoating people like her family was going to be the next president.”
WE advocates in favor of a $15 hourly minimum wage for all workers. The Caucus also calls for the establishment of a government-run, single-payer healthcare system – on the premise that “healthcare is a human right.” Those who disagree with such a proposal, says WE, fail to understand that “people are more important than profits.”
WE demands that government provide “increased funding” for public education, not only to “meet students’ … social, emotional and academic needs,” but also to “make up for the lasting impact of racial discrimination and economic disinvestment that has left our schools under-resourced.” Moreover, the Caucus claims that educators should “stop the over-reliance on state-mandated high-stakes testing and curriculum.” The barometer of a school’s success, says WE, should be the degree to which its students have internalized desirable (leftist) values and an activist spirit.
In 2017, WE was a grantee of Philadelphia’s Bread & Roses Community Fund, which “organize[s] donors at all levels to support community-based groups in building movements for racial equity and economic opportunity.”
As of 2014, WE had 141 members.
WE is closely allied with Need In Deed.