Help the Militant cover rail, steel, auto
and Verizon contract fights!
This column is dedicated to giving voice to those engaged in battle and helping build solidarity. National rail and auto contracts are approaching expiration; ATI Steelworkers are locked out; and union contracts for basic steel and East Coast Verizon have expired. I invite those involved in fights against concessions to contact me at 306 W. 37th St., 13th Floor, New York, NY 10018; or (212) 244-4899; or email@example.com. We’ll work together to ensure your story is told.
The teachers’ demands include smaller class size, higher pay, cost-of-living increases and more funding for public schools. They oppose the Board of Education’s proposal to lengthen the workday with no pay raise.
Picket lines were up at every school and spirits were high, buoyed by support from parents, students and others in the community.
Kathy Oglesby, a retired teacher who was on the bargaining team in 1985 when the teachers last struck, was on the Mercer Middle School picket line with her daughter and grandson, who attends the school. “It’s a shame that it comes down to this again. We are standing up for the kids. It’s the same issues as before.”
“I really feel for the new teachers,” Sultan Mohamed, an art teacher for 22 years, told the Militant. “Many have to work second jobs just to pay their bills. We must show the school board we mean business.”
Matt Carter, a special education teacher at Franklin High School, said students and others had brought food to the picket line and even offered to do child care for picketing teachers. A local Domino’s donated 20 pizzas. “This strike is not just over pay,” said Brian Black, a history teacher at Franklin. “We are concerned about excess testing and the inequities in the system that affects minority students.”
The 160 workers at the plant — which produces potato starches, corn sweeteners and ethanol — have been working without a contract since Aug. 1. “We rejected the company’s ‘last, best offer’ by 95 percent because they were asking for more than 100 concessions,” Local President Chris Eby told the rally.
“I know what it’s like not to have a union,” Ironworker Kris Baker said, recalling working as a nonunion construction worker before joining the Ironworkers. He came with fellow unionists to show support.
Local 100G Vice President Matt Maas said this was the second informational picket line the local had organized, “and don’t expect it to be the last if the company continues to refuse to give us the contract we need.” A group of workers were listening to the speeches during their break across the street at Penford and waved in support.