April 2 public employee strike looming in Oklahoma

April 2 could be momentous day for Oklahoma teachers and state employees.

The Oklahoma Education Association (OEA), on March 8 announced that unless state lawmakers provide for a “significant raise” for teachers and school support employees and restore the funding cut from the state’s education budget, there will be a statewide closure of public schools on April 2.

“Teachers and support professionals of Oklahoma are angry and frustrated with the legislature for not doing its job,” said Alicia Priest, president of OEA. “We have tried several different paths to improve education funding, but none have worked. If the legislature cannot properly fund education and core state services by the legal deadline
of April 1, we are prepared to close schools and stay at the Capitol until it gets done.”

Two days later, the Oklahoma Public Employees Association (OPEA) board of directors voted to develop a work stoppage action plan for state employees. The work stoppage would take place on April 2.

“State employees in all 77 counties are fed up with state leaders who will not act to address state employee pay that is 25 percent below the private sector,” reads a statement issued by OPEA. “They are also tired of politicians who will not vote to raise revenue so core services can be sufficiently funded.”

The state’s failure to adequately fund core services such as education, public health, human services, law enforcement, etc. is the result of an extended shortage of revenue.

The revenue shortage is the result of generous tax breaks given to the oil and gas industry and the absence of other reliable and stable revenue sources.

While being stingy when it comes to funding the state’s core services, Oklahoma lawmakers have been almost philanthropic when it comes to lavishing tax breaks on the oil and gas industry.

US News reports that “Oklahoma has cut educational spending drastically in recent years while granting some of the most generous tax breaks in the country to oil and gas companies.”

The result of this generosity was a steep drop in state revenue even when oil production was booming.

Reuters reports that while oil and gas production boomed, “Oklahoma’s generous tax breaks for horizontal drilling resulted in declining revenue from production taxes,” which according to Reuters cost the state about $800 million in lost revenue between 2008 and 2014.

These tax breaks had been temporary, but in 2014, lawmakers voted to make them permanent.

In doing so, they continued to subsidize the oil and gas industry at the expense of core state services.

In 2017, the Guardian reported that Oklahoma’s lack of funding for public services made it resemble “a failed state” in which “the contract between citizens and public institutions breaks down.”

The Guardian describes a number of failures of the state to provide basic services including its lack of funding for programs that serve Oklahoma residents with mental disabilities. This lack of funding has resulted in a ten-year waiting period for some of these services.

In addition to short-changing its residents, Oklahoma has also been short-changing workers who provide state services. Oklahoma state employees haven’t had a pay raise in nearly 10 years.

And it’s no better for the state’s public school teachers whose average pay is the worst among all states in the US.

Priest said that as result of the low pay, Oklahoma teachers are leaving the state for better paying jobs in Texas and Arkansas.

Oklahoma’s failure to fund education has resulted in larger class sizes, reduced after-school programs, and cuts to other vital education services.

The lack of education funding also has caused nearly 100 of Oklahoma’s 513 school districts to reduce their school week to four days.

Teachers and state employees have been vocal advocates for improving the state’s core services, but lawmakers have ignored them.

Nevertheless, these advocates have persisted and what we’re seeing in Oklahoma, said Priest, is a “grassroots movement” that will no longer stand by and watch while state core services continue to crumble.

“Being last in the country in teacher pay and at the bottom of per pupil funding cannot be our vision for Oklahoma,” Priest said. “Our teacher shortage has reached catastrophic levels. . . We have thousands of full‐time support professionals who live below the poverty line. These people are vital to the day‐to‐day operations of our schools and play a significant role in our students’ lives.”

“We have found we cannot cut our way to prosperity,” continued Priest. “Our health care system is cutting services to our most at-risk populations. That includes children who are also our students.”

Priest went on to say that school districts across the state are preparing to close on April 2 but that a school closure is not OEA’s goal.

“Properly funding education and our state’s core services is the goal,” Priest said.


Frontier Communication workers strike for job security and improved customer service

Workers at Frontier Communications in West Virginia are on strike.

The 1400 striking Frontier workers are members if the Communication Workers of America (CWA). They walked off their jobs on March 4 because they want their new collective bargaining agreement to include job security protections for all union members.

Union members also want Frontier to keep promises that it made to customers when it acquired the state’s telecommunications system from Verizon in 2010.

“Frontier promised West Virginians that they would continue to provide the high quality service that is critical for families and businesses across the state,” said Ed Mooney, vice president of Communications Workers (CWA) of America District 2-13. “Instead, what we have seen is a sharp increase in customer complaints that has coincided with job cuts. There are simply not enough employees to get the job done.”

The CWA bargaining team began negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with Frontier ten months ago.

After nearly a year of bargaining, the company was willing to guarantee job protections for 85 percent of union members, but the union wanted job protections for all members.

Union members say that job protections and quality services go hand in hand.

Frontier acquired West Virginia’s telecommunication system from Verizon in 2010 and at the time promised to invest in the state’s local workforce and its telecommunication system.

But instead, the company eliminated 500 good-paying, middle class jobs, a 27.5 percent reduction in its workforce.

Half of those job cuts have come since January 2017.

In December, about the same time that Frontier learned that it would be getting a substantial tax cut, the company announced its plan to eliminate 50 more jobs.

While Frontier has been eliminating good-paying union jobs, the work load has not declined, and the company is using lower-paid non-union contractors to pick up the slack.

As the company relies more on inexperienced contractors, customer service complaints have increased substantially.

The union’s review of informal customer service complaints filed with the West Virginia Public Service Commission found that complaints against Frontier increased by 69 percent between 2014 and 2017 going from 639 in 2014 to 1072 in 2017.

“”Customers are waiting way too long to have their problems resolved, and too often we’re back fixing the same problems over and over again,” said John Bailey, president of CWA Local 2276 in Bluefield. “Frontier is leaving West Virginia behind. The network has been neglected and there are just not enough experienced, well-trained workers left to handle the service requests.”

Since the strike began, Frontier has been trying to maintain service by importing out-of-state contractors to serve as replacement workers.

One of the out-of-state contractors was detained by police after he brandished a gun at striking workers as they walked their picket line.

Despite the actions of one disgruntled contractor, striking Frontier workers have been receiving widespread support locally and throughout the US.

During a recess on the final day of the state Legislature’s session, a busload of Democratic lawmakers joined a Charleston picket line of  striking Frontier workers.

Earlier in the week, Frontier received a letter from Kent Carper, president of the Kanawha County Commission.

In his letter, Carper wrote that he was disappointed with Frontier.

When Frontier began operating West Virginia, wrote Carper, it made promises to the community, but the company “failed to live up to its promises.”

Carper requested a meeting with company officials “to discuss this work stoppage and offer my assistance to resolve it.”

In addition to these elected officials, other unions and union members from all over the US are supporting striking Frontier workers.

During the first week of the strike, members of International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 10, SEIU Virginia Local 512, CWA Local 2201, CWA locals from Virginia and Maryland, and UAW locals joined Frontier picket lines.

United Food and Commercial Workers locals 1776 and 23 whose members live and work in Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia sent a letter pledging support for the striking workers and their customers.

A number of unions including CWA locals all over the country and United Mine Workers of America locals 1924, 1620, and 1332 from the Navajo Nation posted messages of support on Facebook.

And union members and other supporters from all over the country have been making contributions to the strikers’ Solidarity Fund, which helps striking workers meet the financial responsibilities during the strike.

In  a statement issued on March 9, Mooney said that Frontier, which has already agreed to job security protections for 85 percent of its union employees, could end the strike by extending the same protections to just 200 more of its union workers.

“We are asking them to make a commitment on job security for 200 of their employees to close this deal,” Mooney said. “They have no problem making a commitment to 200 scabs, many of them from out of state, in order to try to undermine our strike. Why not commit to their own employees, some of whom have been with the company for 40 years or more?”

UNITE HERE holds week of action to support immigrant workers

UNITE HERE announced that during the week of March 5-9 the union will launch a series of actions to support immigrant workers in danger of having their DACA or TPS protections revoked.

“With the fates of hundreds of thousands of DACA and TPS holders remaining uncertain, . . . UNITE HERE is running major internal member education campaigns for DACA holders and is organizing externally against Trump’s racist immigration policies,” said the union in a statement about this week’s activities.

DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, is an executive order issued by President Obama. It allows immigrants who came to the US as children with their parents to work, study, and live without fear of deportation.

Last year, President Trump revoked DACA, and March 5 was supposed to be the day that DACA protections expired, but President’s Trump’s revocation has been suspended while courts review his action.

More than 800,000 people who have lived in the US most of their lives are protected by DACA.

“America has been my home since I immigrated here at 12 years ago,” said Celica Valdez, a UNITE HERE member from Monterey, California. “DACA allowed me to come out of the shadows and provide for my family. I’m a single mother, and my family depends on my union job as a hotel worker at Hyatt. If Trump wins with taking away my work authorization, my family would be destroyed.”

TPS, or Temporary Protected Status, has been in effect since 1990. It gives protected status to immigrants fleeing political violence, repression, war, or natural disasters.

It has allowed more than 300,000 immigrants who can’t live in safety in their own countries to do so in the US.

During the Trump administration 250,000 immigrant workers with TPS status from El Salvador, Haiti, and Nicaragua have had their TPS terminated and been ordered to leave the US by 2019.

UNITE HERE has 270,000 members, many of whom work in the hospitality industry. According to the union, tens of thousands of our members are immigrant workers, some of whom are affected by President Trump’s DACA and TPS decisions.

UNITE HERE on March 5 began its week of mobilization in Washington DC by joining SEIU, another union with a large contingent of immigrant members, in supporting immigrant rights activists, who demonstrated near the Capitol to demand that DACA protections be extended.

At the Capitol complex, 87 people were arrested for committing non-violent acts of civil disobedience.

The next day, UNITE HERE Local 23 members in Indianapolis, Indiana joined a demonstration in downtown Indianapolis demanding that the state’s two US senators–Joe Donnelly and Todd Young–support legislation that would make  DACA permanent.

The demonstration was organized by Faith in Indiana, a faith community action group that advocates for economic and racial justice

Speaking to the demonstrators, Rev. Steve Carlsen, dean of Christ Church Cathedral, an Indianapolis Episcopalian church, criticized Indiana’s two US senators, Joe Donnelly and Sen. Todd Hunter, for voting in favor of a budget that continues to fund the government’s “massive deportation machine.”

Demonstrators locked arms and formed a human chain through downtown Indianapolis connecting the local offices of Sen. Donnelly and Sen. Young.

Twenty-three people, including at least one member of Local 23, were arrested when they refused police orders to disperse.

In Honolulu, UNITE HERE Local 5 got  an early start on the union’s week of action by holding an immigrant citizenship application fair on March 3 and 4.

The union trained 150 union and community volunteers to help eligible immigrants to apply for citizenship.

“The historic citizenship action is one of the largest in UNITE HERE international’s history, and resulted in 10 times the citizenship applications than the next largest citizenship fair in Hawaii’s history,” reported the union.


UNITE HERE said that it plans other action this week.

UNITE HERE members will be lobbying Congress to support proposals that will extend DACA and TPS protections denied by the Trump administration and will be conducting internal organizing forums to educate members about the current status of DACA and TPS.

“This week will also see UNITE HERE affiliates in swing states such as Pennsylvania and Nevada and as far flung as Indiana to New Jersey mobilizing in-state for a range of activities,” said the union.


West Virginia teachers’ strike continues

Update (3/6/2018): The Republican dominated Senate succumbed to the pressure of striking West Virginia teachers and school support employees and agreed to support a 5 percent raise for them.

Both the Senate and the House voted unanimously to support the raise, and Gov. Jim Justice signed the bill.

Striking education workers who filled the halls of the West Virginia Capitol cheered the news.


Last week, I incorrectly reported that West Virginia teachers and school support employees would return to work after  being on strike for four days.

West Virginia education employees, however, remain on strike because West Virginia Senate President Mitch Carmichael torpedoed an agreement that would have ended the strike.

The agreement between the unions whose members are on strike, the West Virginia Education Association (WVEA), the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia (AFT-WV), and the West Virginia School Support Personnel Association (WVSSPA), and Gov. Jim Justice was announced on February 27.

It would have given all education employees a 5 percent pay increase, created a task force to find a long-term solution to rising health benefit costs, and ended any chance of anti-public school and anti-union legislation from passing during this session of the Legislature.

The state Legislature had to approve the 5 percent raise in order for it to become effective, and the House of Delegates on February 28 did so by a voting 98-1 in favor of HB 4145.

The raise would have been the first pay increase for teachers and school support employees since they received a one-time bonus payment four years ago.

The House sent HB 4145 to the Senate, but Sen. Carmichael, the Republican leader of the Senate, refused to allow a vote on the bill.

Feeling angry and betrayed, the striking education employees vowed to stay on strike until the Senate approved the agreement that they had reached with the governor.

On Friday, March 2, the seventh day of the strike, 40 West Virginia school superintendents met with Carmichael to urge him to support a pay raise for the striking education employees.

The next day, the Senate Finance Committee met to consider HB 4145, and in a 9-8 vote, the committee amended the House bill by reducing the pay raise from 5 percent to 4 percent.

In addition, the committee increased a previously agreed upon 3 percent raise for state employees to 4 percent.

Christine Campbell, president of AFT-WV called the committee’s vote “a deal breaker,” and the three unions whose members are on strike issued a joint statement about the committee’s proposal.

“We are angry and disappointed with the actions of Sen. Carmichael and his Republican leadership team,” began the statement. “Our agreement was for a 5 percent increase for education employees–period!”

The statement went on to say that the education unions supported a 5 percent raise for state employees and criticized Sen. Carmichael and the Senate leadership for pitting one group of under paid pubic servants against another.

The unions also thanked the public including their students, parents, community leaders, and school superintendents who have supported the goals of the strike, but concluded by saying that “Sen. Carmichael and the Senate leadership team leave us no choice–all public schools in West Virginia will be closed again on Monday and remain closed until the Senate honors the agreement that was made.”

After the committee vote, the Senate convened to vote on the amended bill and voted 21-13 to lower the pay raise from 5 percent to 4 percent–or, at least, that’s what the Senate leadership thought happened.

Unfortunately for them, none of the Senate leaders bothered to read the committee’s bill, which contained an error.

Somebody had forgotten to change the section of the bill containing the new salary schedules, and the bill that senators voted on actually  maintained the 5 percent pay increase.

The amended bill with the 5 percent raise still in it was sent to the House.

After the Senate leadership realized that they had made a mistake, they recalled the bill and re-voted to lower the raise.

The House refused to concur with Senate’s amendment, and a conference committee is scheduled to meet on Monday to resolve the issue.

Meanwhile the West Virginia teachers strike continues for at least another day.

Dale Lee, president of WVEA, said that the Senate leadership including Sen. Carmichael miscalculated when they thought that they could lower the pay increase agreed to by the unions and Gov. Justice.

“They thought that teachers and school support employees were bluffing about staying out until the Senate honored the agreement,” Lee said.

“They were wrong,” he continued later. “We were not bluffing. . . . On Monday, we will be back at the capitol and invite everyone who can to join us. We must make sure that the Senate hears our voice and knows that we won’t back down.”


Unions: No matter how the Supreme Court rules on Janus, we’ll keep fighting to “unrig” our economy

In the face of the latest attack on the working class, union members vowed to continue their fight against inequality and corporate privilege no matter how the Supreme Court rules on Janus v. AFSCME District Council 31.

That was the message repeated countless times at rallies and demonstrations that took place all across the US during the February 24 Working People’s Day of Action.

At a rally in New Bedford, Massachusetts, one of 11 Day of Action demonstrations that took place in the state, Sheila Kerns, president of AFSCME Local 1067 succinctly explained what Mark Janus, the plaintiff in the case, is seeking.

“How do you spell entitlement,” asked Kerns as she spoke to the demonstrators at the rally. “J-A-N-U-S.”

In other words, Janus, who enjoys the benefits of union representation even though he is not a union member, feels entitled to receive these benefits without having to pay his fair share to protect and expand them.

Janus’ lawsuit has been financed by corporate billionaires such as the Koch brothers who hope that if the Court rules in their favor, more workers like Janus will quit paying their fair share for union representation, thus weakening unions, the most effective opposition to corporate greed.

The Janus case is a transparent attempt to weaken unions, particularly public sector unions by depriving them of funding.

While today’s Court is packed with corporate friendly judges such as the newly appointed Judge Neil Gorsuch, that hasn’t always been the case.

In 1977, the Supreme Court recognized the important role that unions play as a counter balance to wealth and privilege when it ruled that fair share fees like the ones that Janus doesn’t want to pay were in fact fair.

Janus’ billionaire backers are hoping that a more corporate friendly Court will reverse its previous decision.

Should they win, the freedom of the working class to take collective action to defend and improve our standard of living could be at stake.

Michael Carrigan, president of the Illinois AFL-CIO recognized this threat as he addressed 5000 people at the Chicago Working People’s Day of Action.

“Our freedom is under attack,” Carrigan said.

But, continued Carrigan repeating a theme heard at all of the Day of Action demonstrations, “Whether you are in a union or not, working people are here to fight back. We are here to unrig the system.”

“This case is the culmination of decades of attacks on working people by corporate CEOs, the wealthiest 1 percent, and the politicians that do their bidding to rig the economy in their favor,” said the Communication Workers of America (CWA) in a message to members urging support for the Day of Action.

“It’s meant to destroy the ability of people who work in the public sector, including more than 100,000 CWA members, to join together in unions to negotiate better wages, benefits, and protections that improve working conditions and set standards for everyone,” continued the union in its message.

To emphasize that the fight to unrig the economy would continue no matter how the Supreme Court rules on Janus, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) organized on-the-job actions that the union called #WeRise at 600 work sites on the Monday after the Day of Action, the same day that the Court heard Janus arguments from both sides.

SEIU reports that tens of thousands of SEIU and Fight for $15 members participated in #WeRise actions, which included some walkouts, to announce that the union would continue organizing and fighting to give working people a voice on the job, in their communities, and to elected officials.

“I know some people aren’t well informed on the benefits of having a union job,” said Kim Akins, an SEIU Local 73 in Chicago explaining why on-the-job organizing is important. “You have a sisterhood and brotherhood in this organization. If and when you are put in a situation when you have some type of issue in your workplace, you are not alone in facing it. You are stronger in numbers rather than trying to be a solo act and think that you can work a problem out alone. A closed mouth is never fed.”


West Virginia teachers extend their strike

Union leaders said that West Virginia teachers and school support employees will continue their strike through at least Monday.

The strike, which has shut down public schools in all of the state’s 55 counties, was scheduled to end on Friday, but union leaders and members were dissatisfied with the progress made toward resolving the issues that caused the strike.

“It is clear that education employees are dissatisfied with the inaction of the legislative leaders or the governor,” said Dale Lee, president of the West Virginia Education Association (WVEA). “Education employees have not seen appropriate progress on issues vital to teachers, professional personnel, and service personnel, and that is why they are still (on strike).”

Lee made his remarks at a media conference called on Saturday afternoon to announce the decision to continue the strike.

“This isn’t about  the union, it’s about public education,” said Christine Campbell, president of the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia (AFT-WV). “The reason that all these people are (at the capital), they’re not standing up for themselves; they’re standing up for their students.”

State cuts to the education budget over the years have resulted in crowded classrooms, cuts to vital school services, and a severe teacher shortage caused by the exodus of teachers in West Virginia to nearby states that pay better and have better benefits.

Speaking to reporters, Lee said that there has been some progress toward resolving the strike issues, but not enough.

The Legislature voted for and the governor signed a bill that raises teacher pay by 2 percent next year.

But Campbell said that even with the pay raise, West Virginia still ranks 48th in teacher pay among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

“We want them to do something that will get us out of 48th in the country,” Campbell said. “We want to make sure that we can fill these (727 teaching) vacancies with  experienced, highly qualified educators in every single classroom in West Virginia.”

Lee said that union leaders met with state leaders on Saturday before the decision was made to continue the strike but that the leadership of the state didn’t make a commitment to address the strike issues.

In addition to a real pay raise, West Virginia teachers and school support employees want a solution to the spiraling costs of their health care plans.

For the last four years, the West Virginia Public Employees Insurance Agency (PEIA) has been forced to implement what a PEIA board member called “draconian” cuts to public employees’ health care benefits because the state has not fully funded their health care plans.

The unions want a long-term solution to their health care funding problem and a seat at the table when PEIA makes decisions that affect their health insurance, Lee said.

In addition to better pay and improved benefits, the unions want to stop anti-public school legislation that has been proposed during this session of the Legislature.

Specifically, the unions oppose bills that would authorize using state money to fund private schools, eliminate school employee seniority rights, and union busting bills such as SB 335, which would end the common practice of withholding union dues from employees paychecks.

Lee said that the strike has received widespread support from the community. He noted that a number of school superintendents had signed petitions in support of their employees’ goals and that so far, local school boards have chosen to close schools rather than try to keep them open during the strike.

While right wing politicians have pushed the line that the strike is the work of union bosses, the fact is that union members have been the ones pushing their leaders to take action.

Nearly 10,000 union members were at the state capital on Friday to show their support for the strike and the same number were at the capital on Saturday.

Lee said that at least that many if not more were walking picket lines in their local communities.

Reporters wanted to know if the strike would be continued past Monday.

Campbell replied, “We have to see some commitment to the issues we have been talking about the last several years and especially the last few days. We want to see a commitment from the Legislature to address these issues. That commitment will determine how we proceed. It’s in their hands.”


West Virginia teachers on strike

Fed up and feeling disrespected, West Virginia teachers and school support employees today began their statewide strike to save public education.

The strikers set up picket lines at their schools, held rallies and demonstrations in their communities, and some traveled to Charleston, the state capital, to demand action by lawmakers.

Even though West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey declared the strike illegal, leaders of the two state public education unions, the American Federation of Teachers-West Virginia (AFT-WV) and the West Virginia Education Association (WVEA), said that schools in all 55 counties of the state were closed.

The strike was caused by years of neglect by state leaders.

A series of budget cuts have resulted in crowded classrooms, cuts in vital school services, and a severe teacher shortage as qualified teachers leave the state to take jobs in nearby states that pay better and have better benefits.

Rebecca Diamond, a second grade teacher in Huntington, and Jacob Fertig, an art teacher in Kanahwa County, explained why they are willing to defy state leaders and go on strike.

“I have a daughter,” Diamond said. “I will go on strike, so that she will have a highly qualified teacher in every single classroom that she goes into.”

Diamond said that her current salary isn’t enough to pay her family’s bills, so she has taken a second weekend job where she sometimes works ten-hour shifts on both days.

Instead of working at my second job on the weekends, Diamond said. “I’d like to be preparing for what I’m going to the next week at school.”

Fertig, whose wife has a chronic illness and whose daughter has a physical disability, said that he needs a quality, affordable health care plan, but that West Virginia does not provide one to teachers, school support employees, and other public employees.

“The lack of quality health insurance that we have here for teachers in West Virginia bankrupted my family,” Fertig said.

“We qualified for food stamps and WIC (a federal nutrition program for women, infants, and children),” Fertig continued.

According to Fertig the original teacher pay raise offered by West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice would have raised Fertig’s pay by about $375 a year. In the same year, his health care premium was scheduled to increase by about $1100 a year.

By 10:00 A.M. this morning a long line of hundreds of teachers formed outside of the West Virginia Capitol as striking teachers and other public school employees waited for the building to open.

When it did, the first floor of the building was covered with a flood of people wearing red and demanding that lawmakers take real action to solve the state’s public education crisis.

The strike has already had an impact.

The day before the strike began, the Finance Board of the state’s Public Employee Insurance Agency (PEIA), which manages health insurance plans for teachers and other public employees, approved a freeze on health care benefits for the next school year.

The freeze halts the $29 million worth of health care cuts for next year authorized by PEIA in December.

Union leaders said that the freeze is a step in the right direction, but PEIA, the Legislature, and governor need to do more.

“We still believe a freeze is not a fix,” said Christine Campbell, president of AFT-WV, about the agency’s decision to freeze benefits.

Campbell and Dale Lee, president of WVEA, both said that there needs to be a long-term, permanent solution to the funding problems that have caused PEIA to radically cut health care benefits over the last four years.

On the eve of the strike, the Legislature passed a pay raise bill for teachers and school support staff.

The raise increases pay by 2 percent next year, and 1 one percent the following two years.

When asked by reporters if she was satisfied with the pay raise, Campbell said that she wasn’t.

“This isn’t something that will actually pull us out of 48th in the country,” Campbell said.

Campbell was referring to the fact that teacher pay in West Virginia ranks 48th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

In addition to wanting the Legislature to do more to improve pay and health care benefits, Campbell also said urged union members to keep up pressure on the Legislature to thwart anti-public education bills pending before the body.

Among those bad bills are SB 335, which would prohibit the withholding of union dues from union members’ paychecks, SB 6, which would provide vouchers for parents wanting to send their children to private schools, and several bills that attack seniority rights for teachers.

The statewide strike has made state officials nervous. Attorney General Morrisey hoped that he could dissuade union members from going on strike by announcing that the work action is illegal.

He also said that if any local governments requested him to do so, he would file an injunction to halt the strike.

So far, no one has taken him up on his offer.

After the attorney general issued his threats, Lee said that the fact that the strike is illegal would not keep teachers and school support employees from striking.

“Education employees know they do not have the right to strike and they know there could be consequences to their actions,” Lee said. “But their frustration and anger has reached a boiling point and the Legislature continues to move punitive bills and fuel their anger. They are courageous and standing up for themselves, our schools and our students. They should be applauded instead of threatened.”