North Carolina Teachers Descend on State Capital with Funding Demands

Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg Editor, Press Associates Union News

At least 20,000 North Carolina teachers, decked out in the now-familiar #RedforEd T-shirts, descended on the state capital building in Raleigh on May 16.

They demanded more funding for the schools so they can teach their kids, better pay for themselves and support staffers, and an end to the corporate tax cuts that robbed Tar Heel state schools of money for at least the past decade.

So many North Carolina teachers walked out, went to Raleigh, or both, that half the schools in the state, covering two-thirds of the students, had to close. Other unions, led by the state AFL-CIO, supported the walkout – which really was the lobby day of the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), a National Education Association affiliate.

"What they've been doing to our public schools is not right," NCAE President Mark Jewell said of the state legislature.

Carolina teachers thus became the latest in a lengthening line of teachers who have taken matters into their own hands and taken to the streets in red states, demanding more funding for schools, better pay for themselves and staff, and guaranteed funding streams for education – including an end to state corporate tax cuts that robbed schools of needed cash.

West Virginia’s teachers started the parade when they were forced to strike for nine days after the GOP-run legislature refused to raise their pay and planned to cut their pensions. They were followed by teachers in Kentucky, Oklahoma and Arizona – plus another massive lobby day by Colorado teachers in the state capital, Denver. All had similar demands, and, except in Oklahoma, won most of them.

Gov. Roy Cooper (D), greeted the North Carolina teachers by proposing an 8 percent raise and more funds for books, repairs and buying materials. One teacher tweeted a photo of a textbook for elementary schoolers about the presidents. It’s so old kids had to draw in likenesses of every president after Reagan.

But the heavily gerrymandered GOP-run state legislature is another matter. The state House speaker declared Carolina’s teachers got larger raises than any others nationwide during the last two years, and said they should go back to the classroom.

And GOP State Rep. Mike Broady ranted about “teacher union thugs” on a radio call-in show and a long blog. Other Republicans muttered that state law bans public worker strikes. North Carolina is a right to work state, the legislature has a veto-proof GOP majority and its public worker labor law is so bad that a decade ago the national AFL-CIO filed a formal complaint with the International Labour Organization against the state.

The NCAE cited tax cuts which left the state with a 3 percent corporate tax rate while teacher pay is 37th in the U.S., and per pupil spending is lower than that. The state has the biggest say in that, too, as it provides 60 percent of funds for the schools, the National Education Association reports.

“Our students deserve better,” the NCAE said in a statement before the mass demonstration in Raleigh.  “They deserve resources to help make them successful. They deserve professionally paid educators. They deserve safe schools and schools that are not crumbling and in disrepair.”

“#GetReady for our March for Students and Rally for Respect on May 16th. So far, the response has been outstanding for our Advocacy Day when the General Assembly goes back into session. We are bookending the day with two very powerful events to show our support for public school students, educators, and public education overall,” the site added.

“North Carolina is one of the worst in the country in the amount our elected leaders spend per student, about $2,400 behind the national average. Imagine what $2,400 per child could mean for our students and their future. However, we have the lowest corporate tax rate in the country for states that have one -- and it’s set to go lower again,” an NCAE fact sheet said.

One demand, the pay hike, would bring North Carolina teachers up to the national average in four years. Right now, they’re $9,600 per teacher behind. The NCAE also wants “a multi-year professional pay plan” for teachers, support staffers and administrators, “significant improvement in per pupil spending so our students have the resources to be successful,” and more school nurses, counselors and social workers to help the kids.

The teachers also want state lawmakers to expand Medicaid to cover more low-income Carolinian kids, as the Obama-era Affordable Care Act allows, with the feds picking up the tab. North Carolina is one of the anti-Obama states whose ruling Republicans have refused to enact Medicaid expansion. Cooper also wants to expand Medicaid.

“Our students deserve better. They deserve resources to help make them successful. They deserve professionally paid educators. They deserve safe schools and schools that are not crumbling and in disrepair. We love our public schools and we deserve better!”

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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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