Dear Editor – Union Shop Talk

(Editor’s Note – This letter to the union members was forwarded to Culver City Crossroads by CCFT President Dave Meilke with the request that we publish.)

Friends —

CCFT and ACE (our classified employees’ union) met on Wednesday night to interview the seven candidates who will be competing for three seats on our school board this November.

As part of our new partnership, we were anxious to coordinate this effort with ACE. We also went in hoping that both groups could agree on the same three candidates. In the past, each organization has endorsed separately, but there is no question that our influence is increased if we work together.

We are happy to report that both CCFT and ACE have endorsed Karlo Silbiger, Claudia Vizcarra and Vernon Taylor.

It was not easy. There are a number of good candidates this year. Our community supports and values our schools and the fact that seven activists are stepping forward to run says good things about Culver City.

Teachers and classified staff are on the front lines. We need board members who will seek out our input and who will recognize and value the important work we do each and every day for the students of Culver City.

Karlo, of course, currently serves on the board and is a teacher at Animo Venice High School; Claudia is a CCUSD parent and serves as Chief of Staff for LAUSD board member Steve Zimmer; and Vernon, also a CCUSD parent, wears a number of hats in our community. You may know him from scouting, coaching, city commissions and parent volunteer work.

The union slate is a progressive, student-centered, pro-union, multi-ethnic group. They will provide the kind of sensitive leadership our diverse school community needs.

There is a lot of work to do between now and November. If you can help, please contact our political director, Pam Greenstein, or just give me a shout. Many hands make light work!


The Actors' Gang


  1. Here’s the real question about the value of the ACE and CCFT endorsements: how many members of each union actually cast a vote? My understanding is that the vote for the endorsement took place at the end of the meeting after all of the candidates had been heard (this is the usual practice and not at all an issue). How many members of each union attended the meeting? How many of these hard working folks stayed until the end of the meeting? And, how many of them voted in support of the endorsement? There are around 300 teachers in the teachers’ union, what percentage of those 300 attended and participated? How many ACE members are there, and what percentage voted? For example, (these numbers are for illustrative purposes only as I was not present and do not know the actual numbers) if 25 teachers stayed for the entire meeting and voted, that is 8% of the membership. If of those 25, 20 of them voted to endorse the slate and 5 voted against, then those 20 people represent a whopping 6.7% of the entire membership. So, the real question is, what does the endorsement really represent? How many people voted? Does a very small minority have the right to intimate that all teachers and employees agree with them? Wouldn’t it be more fair, more transparent, and more meaningful if the endorsement information was sent out to all of the members of both unions and as many of the members then cast their votes?

    According to my sources,the endorsements were voted on by union officials and union reps from the schools. The 280 or non-union officials of the teachers union did not cast any vote. The same goes for ACE employees. What does this endorsement really mean? It means that this is the decision of the union officials and chosen representatives only. I wonder what the majority of teachers and employees really think?

  2. I think these are great questions. I would love to see answers from Mr. Mielke or Ms. Hamme.

  3. Hi Christine,

    I’m not a fan of these online discussions, so if you or anyone else out there has questions about the Culver City Federation of Teachers give me a call at home, 837-5760, and let’s chat. I’ve been teaching here since 1979 and am more than happy to talk about our schools.

    I have been surprised by the criticism of our endorsement process, so let me respond to those concerns. Endorsements are made by our Executive Board. This group is made up of our officers, who are elected by our membership, and our site representatives who are teachers at each of our school sites who have volunteered to do the work of running a local union.

    Our process is as follows:

    1. We interview all the candidates, asking each candidate the same questions.
    2. Each teacher ranks the candidates prior to any collective discussion.
    3. We discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each candidate.
    4. We vote.

    This year was different in that we interviewed the candidates jointly with our classified employees’ union, ACE. While there was no prior agreement that we would do a joint endorsement, many of us were pleased that each union chose to endorse the same three candidates.

    There was one other change this year. A few times in previous elections, CCFT made an “early endorsement” for a particular candidate that we wanted to support as early as we could. Some of our members communicated to us that they did not approve of that practice and that no endorsements should be made until all the candidates were interviewed.

    We took that criticism to heart and that is now our policy and is how we proceeded this year. Not to get into a war of words with UPCC, but it is my understanding that they did not interview all the candidates before making their endorsements. If I’m wrong here, I’ll be happy to apologize.

    Finally, my suggestion is that we start focusing on the candidates, instead of questioning the unions’ endorsement procedures. Karlo, Claudia and Vernon are excellent candidates. Karlo is a product of our schools; Claudia and Vernon are CCUSD parents. We are confident that they will provide CCUSD the kind of thoughtful and sensitive leadership our school community needs and deserves.

  4. David Mielke,

    Yes, you are mistaken about (to use your terminology) your “war on words.” The United Parents of Culver City opened up the endorsement process for the additional candidates the moment that they were announced. UPCC sent questionnaires and UPCC interviewed the candidates who chose to be interviewed. UPCC will announce any additional endorsements soon.

    So far, UPCC has endorsed School Board president Kathy Paspalis and Steve Levin. Both Kathy and Steve are CCUSD parents and have impressive resumes as campus volunteers and advocates for all students in all schools.

  5. What would be interesting to hear is an official stance by both the CFT and ACE on their views of UPCC. UPCC has publicly stated that they value the role that our schools’ unions play in our community.

    The questionnaire which was presented to the school board candidates leads one to believe that the feelings are not mutual.

  6. Hi Mr Mielke. Thanks for answering my questions. I will call if I have any particular questions, but I think it is important to get as much accurate information out as possible. I appreciate you taking the time.

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