Arizona teachers vote to go on first statewide strike

Casey Quinlan Think Progress

Arizona teachers plan to go on strike next week.

After three days of voting, on Thursday, Arizona Education Association (AEA) and Arizona Educators United (AEU), a coalition of educators, administrations, and education support professionals, announced that teachers won’t be coming into work on April 26.

According to AEA President Joe Thomas, 78 percent of school employees supported a walkout.

Gov. Doug Ducey (R) announced a proposal last week to raise teacher pay by 20 percent by 2020, but teachers said it doesn’t address larger issues with cuts to education funding since the recession or large classroom sizes. Parents have also chimed in to say that they oppose a proposal that does not include a long-term solution.

Arizona Parent Teacher Association President Beth Simek said, “As a voice for children, we hope to see the governor and this legislature find a sustainable, long-term permanent funding source that does not hurt others in the process.”

Arizona’s education funding experienced severe cuts since the Great Recession. State funding per student fell by 36.6 percent between 2008 and 2015, more than any other state. Teachers are also leaving the state for smaller class sizes and higher salaries, leaving many vacancies.

Striking teachers want a 20 percent raise in addition to implementing a permanent salary structure, competitive pay for educational support staff, no new tax cuts until the state’s per pupil funding reaches the national average, and restoration of education funding to 2008 levels.

Gov. Ducey (R) tweeted minutes after AEA and AEU’s announcement on Thursday and said that “No one wants to see teachers strike” and that “kids are the ones who lose out.”

But teachers say they are walking out to support students and their education, and that although they don’t want to leave their classrooms, this action is necessary.

“None of us went to school, none of us spent money on tuition, on books, none of us spend our time and our energy to not care,” Nancy Maglio, a teacher at Magee Middle School, told ABC News. “I am eagerly anticipating the walkout, but I’m not eagerly anticipating leaving my students.”

There will also be walk-ins at schools on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, according to ABC15. Communities supporting the strike, such as parent-teacher associations, plan to prepare meals for kids who won’t be in school.

There are risks to what is reportedly Arizona’s first statewide teachers walkout, however. Arizona Education Association informed members of an opinion by Arizona Attorney General Gary Nelson in 1971 that said strikes by public employees are forbidden. Nelson said that state law indicates a striking teacher has effectively resigned, Arizona Capitol Times explained, and that since it is illegal in Arizona to resign without getting local school board approval, the state Board of Education could revoke their teaching certificate.

Derek Harris, one of the teachers who is on the leadership team of Arizona Educators United, said on the dangers of striking, “We’ve worked on the assumption that they can’t fire all of us. If it was that easy to replace everybody, we wouldn’t have 2,000 teacher jobs unfilled.”


Reposted from Think Progress

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Federal Minimum Wage Reaches Disappointing Milestone

By Kathleen Mackey
USW Intern

A disgraceful milestone occurred last Sunday, June 16.

That date officially marked the longest period that the United States has gone without increasing federal the minimum wage.

That means Congress has denied raises for a decade to 1.8 million American workers, that is, those workers who earn $7.25 an hour or less. These 1.8 million Americans have watched in frustration as Congress not only denied them wages increases, but used their tax dollars to raise Congressional pay. They continued to watch in disappointment as the Trump administration failed to keep its promise that the 2017 tax cut law would increase every worker’s pay by $4,000 per year.

More than 12 years ago, in May 2007, Congress passed legislation to raise the minimum wage to $7.25 per hour. It took effect two years later. Congress has failed to act since then, so it has, in effect, now imposed a decade-long wage freeze on the nation’s lowest income workers.

To combat this unjust situation, minimum wage workers could rally and call their lawmakers to demand action, but they’re typically working more than one job just to get by, so few have the energy or patience.

The Economic Policy Institute points out in a recent report on the federal minimum wage that as the cost of living rose over the past 10 years, Congress’ inaction cut the take-home pay of working families.  

At the current dismal rate, full-time workers receiving minimum wage earn $15,080 a year. It was virtually impossible to scrape by on $15,080 a decade ago, let alone support a family. But with the cost of living having risen 18% over that time, the situation now is far worse for the working poor. The current federal minimum wage is not a living wage. And no full-time worker should live in poverty.

While ignoring the needs of low-income workers, members of Congress, who taxpayers pay at least $174,000 a year, are scheduled to receive an automatic $4,500 cost-of-living raise this year. Congress increased its own pay from $169,300 to $174,000 in 2009, in the middle of the Great Recession when low income people across the country were out of work and losing their homes. While Congress has frozen its own pay since then, that’s little consolation to minimum wage workers who take home less than a tenth of Congressional salaries.

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