The Rebellion Continues…
Arizona and Colorado Workers Join the Fight for Quality Education
Arizona and Colorado education workers are following the lead of their brothers and sisters in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky and have taken to the streets demanding justice for workers and students. These workers, among the lowest paid teachers and school workers in the country, see the results of tax cuts and incentives for corporations and the wealthy in their daily working lives, not merely in their take-home pay and benefits, but also in dilapidated facilities, cuts to arts programs, outdated textbooks, shortened school days, expanded class sizes and limited resources for students.
“We have classrooms where students sit on counter tops because there aren’t enough desks or seats in the room,” said Jonathan Perrone, a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) teacher in Arizona.
On Thursday, April 26; Friday, April 27; and Monday, April 30, both Arizona and Colorado education workers wore #RedforEd and stormed their State Capitol buildings (in Phoenix and Denver respectively) to demand funding for a quality public education. On Thursday, there were over 50,000 teachers in Phoenix alone.
In Arizona, the Governor Doug Ducey (R) offered a proposal that included a 20% pay increase for teachers by 2020 and some increase in school funding. However, just like in West Virginia, the education workers in Arizona are planning to continue to fight until a bill is actually passed by the state legislature. "To ask us just to trust is hard because when you look at history, it's hard to trust," said third grade teacher Gwen Cordiak. "To ask us to go back to the classroom, when most people haven't even seen the bill... we're not going [back] on blind faith."
In Colorado, not much progress has been made as of yet. Governor John Hickenlooper (D) acknowledged that the workers are underpaid, but he has not put up a school spending proposal that meets the protestors’ demands. Also, since Colorado legislators do not have the power to raise taxes, the educators are working to support a ballot initiative to raise taxes on the wealthy and corporations (a similar ballot initiative is being proposed in Arizona).
In both states, workers have refused to back down – even as threats loom of recently introduced anti-worker legislation aimed at punishing the teachers. The proposed laws include penalties like decertification, fines, and, in some cases, jail time for striking. While educators are on strike in Arizona, in Colorado, teachers have officially been taking vacation and sick leave to remain out of the classrooms and protesting. State Senator Bob Gardner (R-Colorado Springs) introduced legislation that would make it illegal for the teachers to strike. If the bill had passed, each striker would have faced a fine or up to six months in jail. However, after strong blowback from teachers and other state legislators (including some in his own party) Sen. Gardner announced on Tuesday, May 1 that he was pulling the bill.
As of Tuesday, May 1, educators are still out protesting in the streets. In Arizona, the state legislature is hearing legislation that would fund a 10 percent raise for teachers and an additional $200 million toward restoring the $400 million cut from schools.
The APWU National officers encourage all members in Arizona and Colorado and in locals around the country to support the workers however they can. If any APWU member participates in a solidarity action, please email pictures to firstname.lastname@example.org.