Colorado teachers go to the Capitol to demand more education funding

Casey Quinlan Reporter, Think Progress

Colorado teachers joined others across the country in demanding more education funding and higher teacher pay on Monday.

About 400 Colorado teachers decided not to come into school to attend a rally at the Capitol and lobby lawmakers. Teachers want higher salaries, more education funding, and reforms to the state pension system. According to a recent Colorado Education Association (CEA) survey of more than 2,200 members, teachers spend $656 on average for school supplies and snacks for kids. Teachers sometimes cover students’ field trips and school lunches.

“I’ve taught for over 34 years and it’s getting worse instead of better. We spend more and more of our own money to do things,” Poudre School District teacher Charlie McNamee told KDVR.

Englewood school district cancelled Monday classes since 150 teachers said they weren’t coming into school. Teachers have also planned walk-ins in other areas of the state to draw attention to the lack of resources in many Colorado schools.

Teachers say they want lawmakers to invest $150 million in public education, to protect retiree benefits, and oppose a proposal that would raise the retirement age from 58 to 65. Republican lawmakers proposed a bill that would increase contributions to the state pension fund and would cut public employee benefits.

The state pension fund has an unfunded liability of somewhere between $32 billion and $50 billion, according to the Denver Post. Kentucky teachers, who protested at the state capitol building earlier this month, were incensed over pension troubles as well. Kentucky has one of the worst funded pension systems in the country and lawmakers recently passed a controversial pension overhaul.

Colorado teacher pay ranks 46th in the country according to a National Education Association ranking. The CEA said teacher pay fell by 17 percent over the last 15 years. Teacher salaries are also about $7,000 below the national average, according to the Colorado School Finance Project.

The CEA is calling today a “day of action” where teachers will “wear red for public ed” and oppose the pension bill that will be heard in the House Finance Committee on Monday afternoon.

Arizona teachers also wore red for their statewide walk-in last week, where they asked for higher salaries and more education funding. Wear Red for Public Ed has a Facebook page and describes itself as a “grassroots movement started by parents and teachers as a way to stand up for Public Education.” Teachers wore red last year to express disapproval of Betsy DeVos’ education policies. The campaign began in 2011 in response to Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s education agenda, which educators said did not include input from public school teachers.

Although these Colorado teachers have organized for just one day to lobby lawmakers, teachers in Pueblo may go on strike. Last week, Pueblo Education Association (PEA) President Suzanne Ethredge said the PEA filed an intent to strike with the Colorado Department of Labor. The Department of Labor has 20 days to attempt mediation before teachers go on strike, according to KOAA News. Educators have worked for a year without a new contract and were denied a 2 percent cost of living increase by the board of education.

Teachers in Jersey City, Oklahoma, Kentucky, West Virginia, and Arizona have all engaged in some kind of labor action or protest over the two months.

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Reposted from Think Progress

Posted In: Allied Approaches

Union Matters

Get to Know AFL-CIO's Affiliates: National Association of Letter Carriers

From the AFL-CIO

Next up in our series that takes a deeper look at each of our affiliates is the National Association of Letter Carriers.

Name of Union: National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC)

Mission: To unite fraternally all city letter carriers employed by the U.S. Postal Service for their mutual benefit; to obtain and secure rights as employees of the USPS and to strive at all times to promote the safety and the welfare of every member; to strive for the constant improvement of the Postal Service; and for other purposes. NALC is a single-craft union and is the sole collective-bargaining agent for city letter carriers.

Current Leadership of Union: Fredric V. Rolando serves as president of NALC, after being sworn in as the union's 18th president in 2009. Rolando began his career as a letter carrier in 1978 in South Miami before moving to Sarasota in 1984. He was elected president of Branch 2148 in 1988 and served in that role until 1999. In the ensuing years, he worked in various roles for NALC before winning his election as a national officer in 2002, when he was elected director of city delivery. In 2006, he won election as executive vice president. Rolando was re-elected as NALC president in 2010, 2014 and 2018.

Brian Renfroe serves as executive vice president, Lew Drass as vice president, Nicole Rhine as secretary-treasurer, Paul Barner as assistant secretary-treasurer, Christopher Jackson as director of city delivery, Manuel L. Peralta Jr. as director of safety and health, Dan Toth as director of retired members, Stephanie Stewart as director of the Health Benefit Plan and James W. “Jim” Yates as director of life insurance.

Number of Members: 291,000 active and retired letter carriers.

Members Work As: City letter carriers.

Industries Represented: The United States Postal Service.

History: In 1794, the first letter carriers were appointed by Congress as the implementation of the new U.S. Constitution was being put into effect. By the time of the Civil War, free delivery of city mail was established and letter carriers successfully concluded a campaign for the eight-hour workday in 1888. The next year, letter carriers came together in Milwaukee and the National Association of Letter Carriers was formed.

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