Can Weak Unions Get Teachers More Money?

Sunday May 6, 2018
By Noam Scheiber, NEW YORK TIMES

On Thursday, a weeklong walkout by teachers in Arizona resulted in a major victory, as the state’s governor approved a 10 to 20 percent wage increase and a significant investment in public schools.

That followed a roughly $6,000 salary increase that Oklahoma teachers won by threatening a walkout (and later following through). Which in turn came on the heels of a 5 percent raise for teachers in West Virginia, who had shut down schools for almost two weeks.

The teachers were intent on making a statement. “No funding, no future!” they chanted in Oklahoma. And their mantra seemed to carry the day.

That all this took place in so-called right-to-work states, where the power of unions is limited, raises some interesting questions: Do weak unions go hand-in-hand with more effective political activism? Would strong organized labor prevent teachers from getting their way? After all, in Wisconsin, a state where unions were famously powerful, public sector workers suffered a historic defeat at the hands of Gov. Scott Walker in 2011.

Yet the reality is closer to the opposite.

Read the full story from New York Times

At a warehouse shipping phones for Verizon, women say sexual harassment was common

Thursday May 3, 2018
By Mike Snider, USA TODAY

Verizon is investigating complaints of sexual harassment filed by eight women against a Memphis firm it contracts with for shipping of cellphones.

Eight current and former female employees at XPO Logistics filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in April saying they were aggressively groped, faced unwanted sexual advances, lewd comments and retaliation for reporting harassment to their human resources department.

Under a contract with Verizon, XPO Logistics receives and distributes the wireless provider’s cellphones at the Memphis work site. About 900 employees work at the XPO Logistics facility in Memphis.

One of the women employees alleging harassment, Debra Perry, says in her complaint a male supervisor had “touched her inappropriately on several occasions, such as touching her side or rubbing her arm. … In March 2018, he came over to give her a peppermint, dropped it into her hand, then reached down and grabbed her left breast. It happened so quickly that Ms. Perry didn’t know how to react.”

Read the full story from USA Today

The Teacher Uprising Spreads Far and Wide

Friday April 27, 2018

An Associated Press poll found that 78 percent of Americans think teachers are paid too little, and a majority support teachers’ strikes to win higher pay. Fifty percent said they favor higher taxes to pay teachers more.

After weeks of protesting proposed pension concessions, Kentucky teachers were shocked to learn in March that their Republican-dominated legislature had suddenly amended a bill on sewer system regulations to include 291 pages on pension reform. The new law creates a two-tier pension system. Teachers reacted with sickouts, closing schools in a dozen districts as thousands rallied at the capital.

Read the full story from Labor Notes

Several Colorado school districts cancel class for teacher walkouts this week

Monday April 23, 2018

DENVER — School districts throughout Colorado are canceling classes either on Thursday or Friday as hundreds of teachers get ready to walk out.

The teachers are planning on heading down to the state capitol to protest for more school funding, better pay and for the Public Employee Retirement Association system known as PERA to be fully funded.

Read the full story from ABC 7 Denver

The Third Major Red-State Teachers Strike of 2018 Will Start Next Week

Friday April 20, 2018

Spurning a pay raise offer from Governor Doug Ducey as too narrow and inadequately funded, Arizona teachers voted to walk off the job on April 26. Of the 57,000 teachers and school employees who participated in a vote organized by the NEA affiliate (the Arizona Education Association) and the grassroots group Arizona Educators United, 78 percent voted to strike.

The planned action is the culmination of weeks of protests by teachers (under the rubric “#RedforEd,” as supporters were urged to wear red to show solidarity) who decried low pay and years of tax-cut-driven education funding cuts. As in states where earlier teacher protests and walkouts have occurred (West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma), the Arizona action is a direct response to the fiscal policies Republicans have pursued in states they firmly control.

Read the full story from New York Magazine

Oklahoma Teachers End Walkout After Winning Raises and Additional Funding

Thursday April 12, 2018

Saying it had achieved all that it could with a walkout, Oklahoma’s largest teachers’ union on Thursday called for educators to return to the classroom and to shift their efforts to supporting candidates in the fall elections who favor increased education spending.

At a news conference, Alicia Priest, president of the Oklahoma Education Association, characterized the nine-day walkout as “a victory for teachers,” even as it fell short of its goals.

In a deep-red state that has pursued tax and service cuts for years, teachers won a raise of about $6,000, depending on experience, while members of schools’ support staff will see a raise of $1,250.

But the biggest pieces of legislation passed before the walkout, not during it, and Ms. Priest acknowledged that many of the protesters’ demands for more schools funding would not be met, because, she said, Republicans in the State Senate would not consider additional revenue sources.

“We got here by electing the wrong people to office,” Ms. Priest said. “We have the opportunity to make our voices heard at the ballot box.”

Read the full story from The New York Times

Massive Oklahoma teacher protests enter second week

Monday April 9, 2018

OKLAHOMA CITY – Oklahoma lawmakers were returning to the state Capitol on Monday as teachers in the state’s largest school districts entered a second week of massive demonstrations to demand more education funding.

Teachers, students and supporters were again expected to flood the Capitol. Leaders of Oklahoma’s largest teacher’s union have said protests will continue unless lawmakers approve a repeal of a capital gains tax exemption and the governor vetoes a repeal of a proposed lodging tax.

Read the full story from Associated Press

Teacher strikes shut down schools across Oklahoma, Kentucky

Monday April 2, 2018
By Kaila White, Thomas Novelly and JOHN BACON | USA TODAY

Classes were canceled Monday for hundreds of thousands of students across two states as striking teachers rallied at Capitols in Oklahoma and Kentucky to demand improved funding for education.

The walkouts come less than a month after teachers in West Virginia ended a nine-day strike that shuttered schools there.

Larry Cagle, an English teacher at Thomas Edison Preparatory High School in Tulsa, was one of thousands of teachers gathered at the Capitol in Oklahoma City.

“We’ve gotten tired of begging for everything,” said Cagle, a co-founder of Oklahoma Teachers United. “Teachers, students and the community have decided enough is enough.”

Oklahoma ranks near the bottom among states in average pay for its teachers. The teachers are striking despite a $6,100 pay raise signed into law last week by Gov. Mary Fallin. Oklahoma Education Association President Alicia Priest called the legislation a “down payment.”

Read the full story from USA Today

Memphis sanitation workers went on strike 50 years ago. The battle goes on

Monday February 12, 2018

It was 50 years ago today that two black sanitation workers in Memphis were crushed to death on the job. Soon after, hundreds of their brothers went on strike demanding the recognition of their union and fair pay, and to assert their own basic humanity. The strike commanded the attention of the nation and became a driving force of Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign.

Standing with working people fighting for a strong union was King’s final public act before his assassination. “We’ve got to give ourselves to this struggle until the end,” he told the sanitation workers the night before he was shot dead.

Each day of the two-month 1968 strike, workers marched from Clayborn Temple to Memphis city jall. They stared down mace and teargas, police dogs and the barrels of shotguns, all while wearing signs that proudly declared: “I AM A MAN.”

Read the full story from The Guardian

N.Y. Teamsters form ‘sanctuary union’ to fight ICE agents

Saturday February 10, 2018

Worried about federal immigration policies, a New York labor organization is taking steps to protect its own.

Across Long Island and throughout the city, some 120,000 Teamsters are getting prepped to become a “sanctuary union.”

In 27 shops, business agents, supervisors and front-line workers are getting schooled on their rights under U.S. law — and when and how to challenge federal immigration agents who show up to search their work sites.

The training is complex and technical — hinging on specific types of warrants and the definition of a raid.

But in fundamental labor terms, it follows one simple rule: Union solidarity first, immigration status second.

Read the full story from New York Daily News