In 2005, the Caraway Team began working with the American Federation of Teachers - United Teachers of New Orleans (AFT-UTNO) to support teachers who returned to the city after Hurricane Katrina to find they were unemployed. When Louisiana declared a state of emergency, it took over the school system and required all returning teachers to reapply for teaching jobs. Many were denied employment and those who could find teaching positions, accepted employment without the protection of the contract provisions previously negotiated for them by AFT-UTNO.
To fulfill its mission to protect teachers' rights and maintain high standards of education, the union wanted to be recognized as a partner with Louisiana, the local school board, local civic organizations, and parents and students to provide a quality education for the students of New Orleans. However, the Louisiana state government did not recognize AFT-UTNO as the bargaining unit for New Orleans Public Schools and new school employees were unfamiliar with its value to the school system. Further, low education rankings on state assessment tests led Louisiana residents to support the idea of a state-run school district.
Caraway designed a communications strategy that would not only create brand recognition of AFT-UTNO, but that would establish it as an important player in re-establishing New Orleans' public education system. The Caraway Team steered AFT-UTNO's communications in a different direction, focusing on making both emotional and intellectual connections with key national, state and local decision makers as well as community members. Our team won hard-fought media attention through grassroots organizing, meetings between AFT-UTNO and key reporters of targeted publications, and by creating powerful brand taglines - Better Together and Refuse to Lose. As a result of this strategy, the Orleans Parish School Board recognized bargaining rights of its employees and re-entered into negotiations with AFT-UTNO.