America has 15,000 school districts. For the most part, each one of them has its own union local. Between the National Education Association and the American Federation of Teacher, almost one in fifty Americans belongs to an education union. When you count spouses and children that live with or depend on them, the numbers are closer to one in twenty. You can see why America’s political fundamentalists want to destroy unionism. The death of Justice Scalia resulted in a 4-to-4 tie in the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on Freidrichs vs. California Teachers Association. If the new majority on the Roberts Court rules as most think it will, a new test like Freidrichs will come forward soon enough. When it does it will almost certainly spell the end of 40 years of labor law and precedent. Citizen United defined money as speech. Cases like Freidrichs could define union dues as speech. Right-to-organize protections would disappear overnight. Unionism will be faced with an existential crisis.
In a few places around the country education unions have roared back to life after a change in leadership. Chicago comes to mind. The charismatic leadership of Karen Lewis was instrumental in their success. In other places where old leadership was turned out and new leadership came in, it is not clear that the union will even run again as well as it did before. Here and there across the country education unions are trying various things to re-spark their members’ interest and rebuild their effectiveness. In many places though, they are quiescent; nothing beyond business as usual is happening. Education unions have to find a strategy for getting back on the road to effectiveness. Waiting for charismatic leadership to appear is not a strategy. They need a major overhaul.
From 2012 to 2016, I was the president of the Seattle Education Association (SEA). I’m not an academic, with a thesis on how things are supposed to work. Nor am I a polemicist, with a political axe to grind about whose ideology the world should follow. By trade, I’m an auto mechanic – a nuts and bolts kind of guy – who figures out what isn’t working and why. I teach high school auto shop; my disposition is to fix things. In 2010 SEA came ever so close to being broken during contract negotiations. Luck played far too large a part in the outcome. As the then-new vice-president, I resolved never again to let SEA be in such a weak position. Since that time, I have worked to conceive of and carry out a fundamental overhaul of the Seattle Education Association. Unions can come alive again after years of dormancy; they can transform themselves.
Stuck in a Rut
In most education unions, organizing is something done in the lead-up to a contract negotiation. The rest of the time, union staffers spend their time and energy dealing with a small percentage of the membership who call the union office for help. Unless the union has a plan to prioritize other work, most time is taken up with these members and their individual challenges. As for the vast majority, who are not having a problem, no wonder they don’t see their union as particularly relevant to their lives as professionals. When had they participated in a union event that was meaningful to them?
This was the diagnosis I came to when I was elected vice-president. Only 11% of members bothered to vote. Clearly the 89% didn’t think the election mattered. SEA had done little to demonstrate relevance. When a union local is not high-functioning, expectations are low. There is space to try something new. As long as the bases are covered, there is quite a bit of latitude for new ideas.
After being elected president in April 2012, I immediately started rethinking our approach to work. How were we going to build SEA into an immovable object in the middle of the road? SEA had to become more relevant to more of its members more of the time. “Relevant” meant working in areas that were important to educators. “More members” suggested reaching out to members. “More of the time” implied figuring out who members would work with. We evolved a three-pronged approach: implement programs and events that were of professional interest to educators; go out and listen to educators’ experience; find out who educators trust and respect at work.
Events and Programs
In 2012, with all of the talk about Finland’s accomplishments we co-created and co-sponsored a conference called “Finland in Washington”. We brought Pasi Sahlberg, author of Finnish Solutions to the University of Washington as the keynote speaker. We invited academics, leaders of education reform groups, elected officials and the general public. The impact of the conference was immediately noticeable. It gradually shifted debate about public education from blame to solutions. SEA had never undertaken such a public endeavor before. SEA members were startled at and appreciative of this different kind of activity. It marked the beginning of a new phase in SEA’s public image.
As the new president, I needed a programmatic offering to make the union more relevant. I had noticed that Seattle teachers were doing their National Boards at high rates. The Nation Board of Professional Teaching Standards is an extraordinarily rigorous and time-consuming process – about 400 additional hours on top of the teaching job. Many teachers were paying for private facilitators or university classes that helped prepare them. Either way was quite expensive – as much as a thousand dollars. We set up and ran our own program using our own members as cohort facilitators. A year later, we added classes for ProTeach, the basic Washington state teaching certification requirement. Every teacher in Washington who started since 2000 must either do ProTeach or National Boards for her continuing certification. SEA is now the go-to provider for certification support. Last year Seattle had more, new National Board certified teachers (NBCTs) than any other city in America except Los Angeles. That has helped Washington become the leading state in the nation for NBCTs. No longer can the anti-union forces say that the union is about protecting bad teachers. Yes, we assure due-process fairness, but we are also the leading voice for improving teaching practice.
SEA developed a partnership with the school district, the University of Washington College of Education, and a philanthropic funding partner to create the Seattle Teacher Residency (STR). It is a new way of preparing teachers for an urban teaching environment. Based on the medical residency model, it’s a practicum-centered approach to learning the craft of teaching. From the beginning of the school year, residents spend the entire day, four days a week, in the classroom with a mentor teacher. One day a week they meet together to reflect on their experience and complete coursework. Residents are not the teacher of record in the classroom; the mentor teachers are. At year’s end, they earn a Masters in Education and their commitment is to teach in Seattle for at least 5 years. I call it the opposite of Teach for America.
STR produces new teachers who have greater knowledge of the craft, are better prepared for urban classrooms, and have a network of supports. STR also attracts a significantly larger percentage of candidates of color than exists in the overall Seattle teaching corps. It is our best strategy for diversifying the teaching corps so that it more closely reflects the diversity of the student population. STR has gained a national reputation as a new approach to teacher preparation. Much later, one of our mentor teachers became the only teacher in America to testify at the Senate hearings on ESEA reauthorization.
Listening to Members
Before all that programmatic work was very far down the road, for a week in May 2012, governance and staff rescheduled all appointments so that we could spend the whole week out in schools, all day long, listening to educators. We chose a few schools where the union presence was not strong. We broke up into teams of 2 to 4, depending on the size of the school. We showed up early and asked the school secretary for the master schedule. Then we divided up the educators. Over the course of the day we visited educators in the building either before class, at lunch, during their prep period, or after class. We told them who we were and that we had a few questions to ask them. Overwhelmingly, educators were happy to see us; we almost never had an unfavorable reception. In many cases a teacher would say, while looking at the clock, “Okay, I can give you five minutes.” Twenty-five minutes later she would still be pouring her thoughts and feelings about her students, her colleagues, her administrator, the state of the district, a problem with district headquarters, a concern about the school board, education funding, charter schools, or the general state of education nationwide. We learned about the personal motivations of our members. It humanized them to us and us to them. So many times, at the end of the conversation a member would say to me, “Thank you so much. I’ve been a member of this union for (name the number of) years. No one has ever asked me what I thought.” In the end, this turned out to be one of our most important building blocks.
Over the next year and a half, we took time every month or six weeks to do another round of “building organizing blitzes”. We have talked to more than 2000 educators in one-on-one conversations. This taught us a lot about building or district problems and even more about individual members. Mostly, however, we learned how to ask one important question, “Who are the trusted and respected leaders in your building?”
Who Members Listen to at Work
When we tabulate the answers to this question, we get a clear picture of who it is that can make things happen in that building. A trend was beginning to appear. If the peer leaders are not engaged in the union, most of the rest of the building will not be either. If the peer leaders are engaged, the building can be a powerful force. Suddenly, we had a proposition to explore: will people follow a leader who is engaged? This would be tremendously important for our goal of increasing member engagement.
Our next task became to figure out how to reach out to the educators whose peers had identified them as trusted and respected leaders. These people are leaders in their buildings because they are heavily involved in the life of the schools. We settled on a simple approach. Would they like to meet in open-ended conversation with other people like them – people from other buildings who had been identified by peers as leaders? 80% said, “yes.” In these meetings, we sat down with 3 or 4 peer-identified leaders and listened to the conversation that followed from our open-ended questions. We wanted to know what drove them to do the work that they do. Why were they committed to public education? What was the story of their pathway to their current position?
One question – “What crossroads are you at now as an educator?” – produced some of the most poignant comments that I have ever heard from the mouth of an educator. She was a 50-something second-career, middle school Math teacher who ten years earlier had left a lucrative career in corporate law to work in an environment where she felt she could make a difference. Universally recognized as a great teacher in her high-poverty school, she is highly motivated and highly skilled. In a confessional tone to her leader-peers, she answered in complete, disarming humility, “I don’t know if I’m good enough to do this job.” Wow! What a profound statement of the challenge of educating America’s children and of the level of expectation and criticism that has been heaped upon America’s teachers.
We got to know these members in a deeper way. After these meetings, we did not ask them to step right up to a union function. We left them to themselves, to think about their commitments, to decide for themselves what roles, if any, they would play. We saw them as a pool of potential actors, but we knew that they would have to judge for themselves if the actions of the union were worthy of their participation.
Temperature Check on Power
Going into the 2013 contract, we had upped member participation in our bargaining issues survey by more than 100%. In 2010 only 1100 members filled it out. This time 2534 – more than half – completed the survey. Later, 3073 members signed a letter of concern about Special Education. These were not high-effort, high-risk actions, but they did help demonstrate to members that they had the capacity for collective action. For the first time in anyone’s memory a majority of SEA members had participated in union actions. We gleaned bargaining priorities from the survey results. Negotiations focused on traditional issues: pay, benefits, and working conditions. We put together a traditional bargaining team: a dozen members, half new and half veterans.
A tentative contract agreement was reached just before school was scheduled to start. The agreement contained some gains, not enough, for sure, to begin to make up for the losses during the recession. During the general membership meeting members were restive. Many felt that the bargaining team had done as well as could be expected. Others felt a general discontent that education unions across the nation were not pushing back. Chicago was held up as a counter-example. But Seattle did not have Rahm Emanuel and the district was not closing schools. In the end a standing vote was called. The 2-year contract was ratified with a fairly close, but clearly evident, majority. We were not yet at the place where most members could conceive of their power and act on it.
Showing Members their Power
Budget season 2014 gave us a perfect opportunity to test our proposition on a large scale. At this point we still had only asked a few peer-identified leaders to take on a union responsibility. Would peer-identified leaders who had not been active in the union step forward and lead members in an action if it was an action that was relevant to them?
Public schools in Seattle have site-based decision-making for the school budget. First, the district allocates money to schools for teachers. This is based on student enrollment. Then it allocates money for everything else according to a formula. It is up to the school to decide how to spend that money. In February, the district announced that there would be a budget shortfall for the next year. They anticipated a lay-off of 50 positions, mostly school secretaries.
Our research on the district budget revealed average annual underspend of $20-$25 million. We called it the “fudge factor”. It showed that lay-offs were not necessary. If the district went ahead with them, it would see in September that it did have the money. It would have to try to call secretaries back from lay-off. Some would have moved on. New hires would not know the work. School secretaries make the schools run. It would be a mess! The district insisted; I was not convinced. We took our research about the “fudge factor” out to buildings. We asked leaders what they thought of our analysis, of the district numbers and the announced lay-offs. They were outraged. “What can we do to stop this? Our schools can’t function without our secretaries! The $20 million can easily cover this with millions left over!”
The school budget process requires a Building Leadership Team to propose a budget and then submit it to the staff for a vote. This was our leverage point. The process works if there are only a few schools that struggle to reach a decision. Those schools go into a time-consuming mediation. If dozens of schools say “no” to their budgets, the timelines grind the system to a halt. For this action to work, people had to put themselves out. They had to get informed about the budget analysis. They had to attend meetings in their building to discuss it and vote on it. They had to act together. Across the district peer leaders led those discussions. They spoke to the question of why all schools should vote down their budgets together.
When half of the schools had completed their votes, all but a handful had said, “No.” We knew of at least 30 more that were poised to say, “No”, when an Assistant Superintendent requested a meeting. The next day, he furrowed his brow and squinted his eyes with perplexity, “We know that there are schools out there that are okay with their budgets. They are not going to lose their secretary. They’re just voting “no” out of solidarity!” I leaned back in my chair, nodded my head, measured my words and conceded, “That’s right. That is exactly what they are doing.” Soon the budget director, citing our analysis, announced that the district had found some “opportunities” in the budget and the proposed lay-offs were canceled. For us, this was a step on the continuum of action. Our proposition had been tested and found to work well. Previously unengaged members will follow a trusted and respected peer leader into action and stick with them. Previously unengaged peer leaders will step up to work through the union on issues that matter to them. Going forward, it was pretty clear that we had cracked the nut of member engagement wide open.
Steps on the Continuum of Action
After the budget reset we turned our attention to a statewide ballot initiative to reduce class size. SEA had long been a low performer in statewide and political actions. To get on the ballot, the initiative needed 350,000 signatures. This time, we were one of the locomotives pulling the collective train. SEA gathered 124% of our share of signatures. After the initiative qualified, SEA led the state in phoning for the initiative, with twice as many phone bank shifts as any other council. The initiative barely passed; Seattle and King County tipped the overall balance in favor. A sense of accomplishment buttressed confidence in our ability to effect change. Again, peer-identified leaders in the buildings led the work.
Later that winter a new opportunity cropped up. We had a member who had been disciplined for his behavior toward a student in a dispute about curriculum. As punishment, the district moved him to another school. An arbitration in this case ruled that moving a teacher was not allowed as punishment. The teacher could back to his original school. But the arbitrator also said that suspending the teacher without pay for a period of time was appropriate. The district decided, after inappropriately transferring him for a year, that it would then punish him again by suspending him without pay for 10 days. “Wait a minute,” we said, “That’s double jeopardy! You’ve already punished him once inappropriately; now you want to punish him again?” We brought this issue to our members and asked them to discuss it in their union meetings. They saw it as unfair. We decided to circulate a letter asking the superintendent to overturn the suspension. Each school had its letter pasted to an 18” x 24” poster board. Members took the poster board around in their schools to explain and get everyone to sign. Then each school formed a delegation that took the poster board down to the superintendent’s office, delivered it personally, and, when possible, talked to the superintendent about it.
This sustained action played out over a period of weeks. It required effort. It was time-consuming for members to go around and get all the signatures. It took work to gather up and organize a delegation to go down to the district headquarters. It was stressful to walk in to the superintendent’s office and confront him on this issue. But members learned that they could do it. After 40 such deliveries and with the certainty that 40 more were on the way, the new superintendent called us up for a meeting. It made him angry that the union was “interfering” in a disciplinary matter. We told him that this was not “the union”; these were educators speaking. We talked to him about the implications of the message to educators, should he go ahead with the suspension. In the end, he rescinded the cut in pay and called the suspension good with “time served.” The record of being disciplined stayed in the teacher’s file, but the double jeopardy was lifted. Members were building their capacity for collective action. Another step on the continuum.
Time to Find Out
The next step would be a big one. In May, we told the superintendent that SEA was calling a one-day walkout to protest the legislature’s continuing inaction on education funding. Some union locals north of Seattle had started the idea. It was gaining momentum across the state. We took it up with our members in April, scheduling two weeks for discussion and voting. As we had seen earlier, leaders weighed in heavily in the building discussions. Their colleagues followed them in voting “yes” for the walkout. 85% of SEA members took part in these discussions and the vote. The sentiment for this action was extremely broad. The May 19th Seattle walkout was a huge media and public relations success. It was a Rubicon of sorts for our members. Practically everyone participated. School was canceled for the day. In downtown Seattle 5000 educators, parents, and community members marched together for public education. Our rally generated intense, favorable news coverage. Videos from the TV stations’ traffic helicopters revealed a sea of red stretching as far as the eye could see down Second Avenue.
For sure the walkout had its own purpose and its own political goals that were roundly accomplished. But it would be disingenuous to say that it did not help our members see the authority and power that they held in the eyes of parents and other Seattlites and the potential that members had for collective action on their behalf. Organizations do not go from a few people doing easy things to everyone doing very challenging things in one great leap forward. The people have to build up to it. For three years, with or without knowing it, members had been building their capacity for collective action. The focus of my work, since becoming SEA’s president, was to show members their potential. I wanted to give them a sense – one that was as clear and self-possessed as possible – about their own power and capacity for collective action.
Preparing for Bargaining
We completely reconceived our negotiating structure, strategy, and agenda for 2015. Building on our strong peer leaders in each building, we toyed with the idea of having a leader from each building on the negotiating team. In the end, we settled on 40. We did engage at least one leader from each small school and two or three from the larger ones to be part of a bargaining support team. We recruited three leaders for each of our ten zones to be zone captains. The bargaining support team ended up being 230 members strong. We trained these people in how to support the negotiating team, but also how to be the communication link between the negotiating team and the membership. All of this was tested and worked impressively on May 19th. At the negotiating table, we also created a new strategy. With leaders present, we let them make the arguments for our proposals. Our lead bargainer organized the member arguments during caucus time, but when the negotiating started he would introduce the proposals then let the team-members speak. The district negotiating team knew who all of our members were and how highly they were regarded by their fellow educators.
These changes were modest, however, compared to how we thought about and created our agenda of bargaining issues. Of course, we surveyed our members. They responded in unprecedented numbers. This time, however, we asked questions about more than just wages, benefits and working conditions. I had attended a conference at Georgetown University about strategies for opening up bargaining to non-traditional topics. I returned with lots of ideas about how to stretch the boundaries of bargaining and start “bargaining for the common good”. I mulled over ideas about development impact fees for school construction, student loan relief for new educators, and banking fees paid by the district. With the survey, however, we narrowed it down. We asked questions about how much standardized testing was impacting student learning, about shrinking elementary recess time, and about disproprotionality in discipline of students of color. With our members’ responses to the survey questions clearly in mind, we sat down with community partners to see if their view on these issues corresponded with the views of our members. We wanted to know what they thought about testing, recess, student discipline, the district’s attempts at community engagement, and educator compensation. We came back with a new level of understanding about our community partners and a remarkable degree of agreement.
At first the district team did not seem to grasp that our proposals around recess, discipline, and testing were serious. They seemed to assume that they were bargaining chips. Negotiations proceeded laboriously. From the beginning, the district team fell into the bad habit of promising to present a proposal on a certain day and then showing up only to say that it was not ready. Sometimes the proposal would come weeks or months later. Sometimes it was never made at all. This lack of respect for our team’s time irked the negotiating team, but it infuriated the membership. Just three days before our August 24th general membership meeting, the district team presented its major proposal. They wanted to implement a longer day, yet they didn’t want to pay educators for the additional time. Were they serious? This should have been brought to the table months before, if they expected us to take it seriously. Almost nothing was resolved in time for the meeting. The membership met without a contract proposal to discuss. We explained SEA’s positions and the distance between them and the district’s. With amazing forbearance, our membership did not vote to strike at that point. There was still time left to negotiate. School was slated to start on September 9th. Members voted to set another general membership meeting for the 3rd. If there was still no tentative contract agreement, they would take a strike vote at that time. In the meantime, we held a public rally at an elementary school playground to support our call for guaranteed minimum recess for elementary students. Turnout was good. It was all over the news that night, along with our proposals on testing, student discipline, and compensation. Parents took up the call for better compensation for educators. When matched with recess, testing, and student discipline, suddenly it became a teacher-quality issue. Parents did not want to lose their great teachers to surrounding districts because of the high cost of living in Seattle.
Before the 3rd, the district conceded on recess. Perhaps they could see themselves headed for the Great Recess Strike of 2015. After that, the teams did some good work around the student discipline issue in negotiations, but other progress was minimal. Compensation, teacher evaluation, and the longer day were completely deadlocked. September 3rd came with no agreement. In the meeting, the membership was angry about the delays, the late introduction of proposals, the disrespect of not taking our proposals seriously, the low level of compensation increases. As the meeting progressed I could tell where the sentiment was for striking. I decided to let the media in to witness the mood. Once the media had entered, the body was ready to vote on a motion to strike on the first scheduled day of school, if no agreement was reached before then. “All those in favor of the motion please signify by saying, ‘Aye.’” The vote was unanimous. Unanimous! You can look it up on YouTube. It was such a powerful moment, and not for nothing in the success of the strike. Shared moments of emotion can be touchstones of resolve when others are not around and the work still has to be done. On the day before school was to start, it was possible to see a way forward on the student discipline question even though contract language wasn’t ready yet. But we had no agreement on student testing or teacher evaluation and we were miles apart on the question of a longer workday and compensation. At 5 o’clock the SEA negotiating team announced that there was no agreement. In conformity with the unanimous will of the membership, Seattle educators would be on strike in the morning.
A Striking Success
Our 230-person bargaining support team became our strike infrastructure. With minor tweaks our zone structure became our communications and feedback network. The picket signs were ready. The plan was in place to support members at their schools. My only concern was about a couple of schools whose leaders still had not engaged in the union. I was on the radio in the morning explaining why we were striking. After finishing, I drove out to one of these schools. As I walked up to the members gathered in front of the school, I could hear the voice of the school’s leader in the middle of the crowd. He was explaining the plan for the day, handing out assignments, answering questions, giving exhortations. In that very first moment on the picket line I knew that we would be able to sustain our efforts and win our demands.
If this was happening here at this school, I knew it was happening everywhere in just the same way. Everywhere I went I met the same level of enthusiasm, discipline, and determination on the picket lines. That day 95% of SEA members picketed at their school. The next day that number rose to 97%. Everyone followed the plan; our demonstration of solidarity and power was breathtaking. Seattlites went out of their way to help the picketing educators. Most schools had food and coffee brought to them. Some has so much that they had to find ways to give it away. A group called Soup for Teachers formed online and was soon delivering meals to schools across the city. Anonymous supporters sent pizza orders to school picket lines. Members and other community activists put together a solidarity concert to raise money for a strike fund.
In 2013, when the media was only fear-mongering about a possible strike, I was inundated with emails from angry parents about the union’s selfishness and irresponsibility for not ruling out that school could be delayed. This time we were actually on strike and the emails from parents were overwhelmingly supportive. Even the few critical ones went along these lines, “Our children and teachers deserve what you are asking for, but please do all you can to conclude this strike soon. It is hard not to have my kids in school.” Strike-fund donations and emails of encouragement poured in from across the country and abroad. Media inquiries came from all over. Everyone wanted to know about this strike where educators and parents were standing together for recess, equity in student discipline, and limits on student testing.
Over the weekend things started to move at the negotiating table. The district may have realized that every day it remained dug in would only prolong the strike. Suddenly, new ideas about compensation and the longer day stayed on the table, instead of being dismissed out of hand. Testing, student discipline, and evaluation language began to take mutually agreeable shape. After a marathon, all-night negotiating session from Monday morning into Tuesday afternoon, an agreement that the SEA negotiating team members could recommend to the membership was hammered out. Of course you never get everything you want, but the agreement made major gains on every issue that we had brought to the negotiating table: first-in-the-nation language on recess, testing, and student discipline, as well as progress on teacher evaluation and compensation. Sometimes a meeting for a tentative agreement can produce a low turnout, but ours had the largest turnout of all. The only substantive criticism was that we were agreeing to less money than we had publicly asked for. We had shaken the district pretty hard for money. A few people believed there was still something left to shake out. Once the question was called and the ballots were cast, 84% of teachers, 87% of paraeducators, and 96% of office professionals approved their contracts.
After the strike, governance leaders from across the state asked me, “Wasn’t it hard? Weren’t you stressed out? Did you sleep at night?” The strike of 2015 was far less difficult and stressful for me than the non-strike of 2013. The outcome was not in doubt. We had done the work. This time I knew where our members stood; I knew what our capacity for action was; I knew who would be moving our message and forging consensus out in buildings. In 2013 I was completely in the dark about those things. With the work we had done in our membership and in the community over the previous three years, I could see ahead. Prior to that work, we had been flying blind. Seattle Public Schools is 350 times bigger than SEA by budget. Collective action is the great equalizer.
It has only taken three year to transform the Seattle Education Association. That really isn’t very much time. The work can be done. The state and national levels should find ways to support the locals. Locals are where the rubber meets the road in education. If we are to meet the existential threat, effective locals are needed more than ever. We invest in the skills of our staffers to bargain contracts, enforce contract language, pursue grievances, win arbitrations. We must invest more into teaching them how to build relationships, organize, increase member engagement, and build power. Governance leaders must learn to be unafraid to try transformative work. How do you get a local out of a rut? How do you create more member engagement? How do you build the capacity for collective action? How do you move staffers to a new understanding of their role? Most governance leaders do not come into the job knowing how to do any of these things. How could they? When and where do we teach about them? We have to set up structures to teach our own and teach them the things that work. It is the core work of the union at all levels. Without transmitting the mastery of these practical tools to new generations of governance leaders, any progress that a local makes is not sure to survive a change in governance leadership. Not everything we did worked, but there are crucial lessons to learn from Seattle. Become relevant. Build capacity for collective action. Seize opportunities. Think about a broader definition of leadership. Work on the continuum of action. Embrace mistakes and learn from them. But here’s my injunction: take all of that, and go out and figure out how to overhaul your organization. Make it what it needs to be. Change isn’t a theory; it’s a practice.