Labor unrest builds among teachers

Labor unrest builds among teachers

(Colo.) Denver Public Schools may be the next major school district to face school disruption by a teacher’s strike, as district officials and union leaders face a deadline later this week.

Just as classroom educators at Los Angeles Unified walked off the job Monday—the first teacher strike to hit the district in 30 years—school administrators in many jurisdictions across the country have scrambled in recent weeks to finalize new contracts with unions energized by last year’s successes.

Earlier this month, the Miami-Dade County school board approved a contract that promises an annual supplement to teachers of as much as $18,500. Just last week, the Bedford School District in New Hampshire struck a two year contract that will provide $1.2 million in salary increases.

But teachers in the Pasco County School District in the Tampa area turned down a 2 percent pay raise in December, sending negotiators back to the table this month.

While many factors are contributing to the labor strife, teachers say now is the time.

“Yes, we’re scared, but at the same time, were ready to do what we need to do in order to make sure Denver kids continue to have great teachers,” Robert Gold, a Denver teacher told the Fox TV news affiliate. “We’ve been telling teachers for the last few months to prepare for this.”

Last year, teachers who went on strike in Arizona, Oklahoma, West Virginia and Kentucky won big pay increases, often from typically unfriendly GOP-led legislatures.

Although teachers at Los Angeles Unified are among the highest paid nationally, they are also living in one of the most costly-cities in the world. They have asked for a 6.5 percent pay raise, retroactive to last year, and bonuses of up to 2 percent.

Smaller classes sizes are also part of the union’s demand, along with more money for school nurses, librarians and academic counselors—all positions drastically reduced during the 2008 recession.

Similar concerns are on the table in Denver.

Denver Superintendent Susana Cordova claims the district is offering 10 percent raises to teachers this year which, if accepted, could result in some educators earning as much as $100,000 annually.

Union officials, however, claim the average salary in Denver is closer to $53,000—which means few teachers would ever earn close to $100,000 if the 10 percent increase was accepted.

This week, the two sides are scheduled to meet several times before the contract expires on Friday, Jan. 18. The union has scheduled a strike vote for Saturday.

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