30,000 Toys “R” Us workers across the country are losing their jobs. This is what happens when you have a system that allows private equity firms to destroy profitable businesses and throw workers out on the streets with no severance.
Despite threats from education officials and lawmakers, thousand upon thousands teachers across Colorado and Arizona staged walkouts on Thursday after spending weeks calling attention to low teacher pay and insufficient school funding—and following similar protests in numerous other Republican-controlled states.
“Our students, educators, parents and communities have been backed up against a wall for more than a decade,” Ralph Quintana, president of Arizona’s chapter of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), said in a statement as the union prepared to strike.
Arizona’s walkout—the first in the state’s history, drawing an estimated 50,000 educators—follows weeks of “walk-ins,” in which teachers promoted the hashtag #RedForEd and wore red to protests outside school hours, joined by parents, students, and other supporters.
The state’s teacher salaries rank 43rd in the nation, according to the National Education Association, and school funding was cut drastically between 2008 to 2015, following the economic meltdown and recession. Arizona currently spends 13.6 percent less per pupil than it did 10 years ago, adjusted for inflation.
Despite an offer of a 20 percent pay increase by 2020 from Republican Gov. Doug Ducey, 78 percent of the state’s teachers voted last week to stage a strike to signal that their grievances are about the quality of education Arizona children are receiving while the state offers $100 million in corporate tax cuts.
Eight hundred miles northeast of the main #RedForEd event in Phoenix, thousands of Colorado teachers assembled at Denver’s Capitol building for the first of two days of protests.
Earlier this week, two Republican state lawmakers introduced a bill to punish any educators who participated in the strike, with fines, firing, or up to six months in jail. State Senate Democrats denounced the proposal as “anti-worker trash,” and teachers were not deterred from protesting.
“Certainly what happened in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, Kentucky has fired up public school educators but the truth of the matter is we’ve been suffering from cuts in our schools and classrooms since 2009,” Kerrie Dallman, president of the Colorado Education Association, told the Denver Post. “The fact so many are coming [to Thursday’s walkout] is a real testament to the growing frustration of public school educators in the state of Colorado.”
Thousands of teachers in a so-called "red state" are marching to demand support for our kids over more handouts to billionaires. That is what real change looks like. https://t.co/QFCEw76bDV
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) April 26, 2018
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A weeks-long mobilization in Oklahoma resulted in teachers striking across the state on Monday, with tens of thousands of educators and supporters rallying at the State Capitol in Oklahoma City to demand more funding for schools and higher wages for teachers.
Organizers planned to speak with state lawmakers about how decades of funding cuts have affected their schools—and why a bill passed in the legislature last week that would raise taxes on oil and gas production to give teachers a $6,100 raise and allot $50 million for school funding was not enough to stop the protest.
Oklahoma Education Association (OEA) president Alicia Priest told CNN the package was “a good starting point,” but said teachers see it as a last-ditch effort by lawmakers to keep the strike from happening and not a genuine attempt to improve schools.
The OEA is demanding a $200 million funding bill for schools, and a $10,000 raise for teachers over the next three years.
Also on Monday, a strike in Kentucky over changes to teachers’ pension plans continued, with educators traveling from across the state to the State Capitol in Frankfort. Most schools were closed for spring break, with teachers and supporters using their time off to protest—while 21 counties’s schools closed for the strike.
Teachers in Arizona held a demonstration in Phoenix last week—also hoping to draw attention to per-student funding, which was cut by more than 36 percent from 2008 to 2015.
In all the states where teachers have been voicing their dissatisfaction, lawmakers have spent decades handing out tax cuts to corporations while cutting funding for schools and leaving teachers with stagnant wages.
“After ten long years in a lot of these conservative states, the chicken is finally coming home to roost,” Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association, told the Huffington Post. “They’ve given tax breaks to big corporations, defunded public schools, and said, ‘What could go wrong?'”
That large banner has the famous line from the American Declaration of Independence, followed by “If of African descent tear off this corner”. TomP had a diary last month on the 100th anniversary of the East St. Louis massacre that described the events and their causes in detail. Today is the 100th anniversary of the Silent Parade in New York City, organized to protest that massacre which claimed the lives of 100-200, the vast majority of them black people. Google changed it’s doodle today to commemorate the protest. They are also highlighting a documentary project from the Equal Justice Initiative called Lynching in … Continue reading →
Samuel Sinyangwe visited Louisiana a few weeks ago, and wrote about how conscript labor is used there in the state legislature and across government facilities. Some background: Louisiana has the highest incarceration rate in the *world.* Within that, black people are locked up at much higher rates. pic.twitter.com/Wcc85JCOwM — Samuel Sinyangwe (@samswey) May 19, 2017 I thought I understood racism and mass incarceration. But nothing prepared me for what I saw in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. (1/x) — Samuel Sinyangwe (@samswey) May 19, 2017 The thread is worth reading, and Sinyangwe was particularly affected by the sight of prisoners … Continue reading →
(pic from Timothy D. Easley – AP) Protests today in Kentucky by union members and union officials, but the vote went against them with the measure that the protestors fear will hurt them being adopted. Kentucky Statehouse Posted by Adam Maguire on Saturday, January 7, 2017 This feisty girl got herself thrown out after shouting out that the GOP “hates labor”: And I'd do it again tomorrow. #GOPHatesLabor and don't let anyone tell u anything else #kyga17 https://t.co/A0KjAmNp7N — Nema #NOTATEACHER (@nema) January 7, 2017 “These are just union-busting bills. They’re not going to improve the economy any. … Continue reading →
By Bob Master, New Labor Forum, Truth-out.org (snip) Despite its enormous promise, the movement has displayed critical limitations. Although Sanders worked hard to enrich his campaign’s analysis and message on issues of concern to people of color, the primacy he gave to questions of class, economic inequality and corporate power evidently prevented many African-Americas and Latinos from seeing themselves in his campaign. This is confounding given that African-Americans were especially hard hit by the ravages of the neoliberal, trickle-down economics Sanders attacks. Black family wealth, already only a fraction of their white counterparts, was halved after Wall Street melted down … Continue reading →