Unions plan worldwide joint actions against GE

General Electric has been on a job cutting binge not just in the US but in Canada and Europe as well.

After a steady drip of job cuts in 2017 that resulted in the elimination of 1700 US jobs in GE’s Transportation division, the company announced in December that it would eliminate 12,000 of its Power division jobs in Europe and Canada.

Unions whose members work for GE in Europe, Asia, and North America finally said enough is enough and banded together.

Under the auspices of IndustriALL, a global confederation of manufacturing unions, GE’s unions formed the GE Trade Union Network.

Unions from the network on May 7 and 8 met in Toronto to develop a plan to win respect for workers and their communities from GE.

At the end of its meeting, the network issued a statement saying that they will take joint actions on a worldwide scale to change things at GE.

The statement condemned GE for walking away from workers and communities that helped build the company, and it said that GE must work with their workers to “achieve a fair and just social business model.”

Despite the company’s assertions to the contrary, GE comes up short when it comes to being a fair and just social business model.

At the network meeting, delegates heard from Bill Corp, president of Unifor Local 524, whose members work at a GE factory in Peterborough, Ontario, Canada.

The Peterborough factory has been operating for 125 years and is the heart of the local economy.

Workers there make large motors for many industrial uses.

But last year GE announced that it is closing the factory and that in September 2018 when the factory shuts down, 358 workers will lose their good-paying jobs.

Those jobs will be shipped to Brazil, France, Mexico, and the United Kingdom.

“It’s devastating news for the community and Peterborough, there’s no doubt about it,” said Sue James, who has worked at the factory for 30 years to the Toronto Star.

Corp criticized GE for “walking away from workers and communities that the corporation was built upon” and leaving behind what the Star calls a “lethal legacy.”

The “lethal legacy” referred to by the Star is the health impact of thousands of toxic chemicals that Peterborough GE workers worked with between 1945 and 2000.

A report by Unifor found that during that period, workers were exposed to 3000 toxic chemicals, 14 of which have come to be identified as carcinogens.

More than 600 Peterborough workers filed workers compensation claims charging that exposure to toxic chemicals left them with debilitating illnesses including an exceptionally high rate of cancer.

The company contested those claims.

Erie, Pennsylvania is another community that GE has let down.

The Erie locomotive plant, part of GE’s Transportation division, has for the three years seen a steady trickle of its jobs being shipped to a non-union factory in Texas.

GE is Erie’s largest employer, and it pays good, hard-won union wages.

But as it shifts more work to its non-union plant, workers have become more concerned about losing their jobs and the community is on edge about GE’s future plans.

Last year, GE announced that 570 Erie workers would be laid off beginning in 2018.

The layoffs were announced after a decline in demand for the products produced at Erie, but demand is starting to pick up.

GE in December announced that Canadian National Railway Company will buy 200 new GE locomotives over the next three years, and GE management in Erie told leaders of UE Local 506, the Erie production workers’ union, that they expect production to pick up by the beginning of next year.

Nevertheless, the company recently told the local newspaper that it still plans to lay off workers;  although, the layoff number has now been lowered to 300.

In a message to members, Mike Ferritto, business agent for Local 506, said that the union will continue to fight the layoffs.

UE and Unifor, both members of General Electric Trade Union Network, have already begun to take joint action to protect GE workers’ jobs and the communities where they work.

They have started an across-the-border campaign called GE-Commit to Our Communities to generate public pressure on GE to

  • End mass layoffs and plant shutdowns and honor its commitments to retirees,
  • End the practice of intimidating workers who try to exercise their fundamental right to organize collectively, and
  • Where GE has harmed the health of workers, community members or the environment, GE should offer lifetime medical monitoring at no cost to those persons exposed to PCBs and other toxic material, and financial restitution to communities.

On April 25, members of Unifor’s GE locals in Peterborough and UE local 506  demonstrated outside GE’s annual shareholders meeting in Pittsburgh.

“GE’s recent history of poor decision-making is hurting workers, communities, and shareholders,” said UE Local 506 President Scott Slawson. “Corporate leaders are making one bad move after another. The company’s decisions don’t make financial sense, they wreak havoc with the lives of GE workers and local economies, and they threaten to lead us all over a cliff.”

One of the bad moves to which Slawson may have been referring was GE’s decision to go into the long-term care insurance business.

After the market failed to produce the revenue GE hoped for, the company scrambled to get out of the business, but it was too late.

GE recently took a $6.2 billion charge against earnings because of the losses from the failed venture.

The whooping losses became public shortly after GE announced in December that it was laying off 12,000 manufacturing workers worldwide.

In Pittsburgh some GE workers left the demonstration outside and went inside to address investors.

“GE workers are the economic stimulators of our communities,” said Tom Bobrowicz vice-president of local 506 to at the meeting. “We buy houses and new cars, we spend our income in the local communities. Over the last several years, GE has slashed the workforce in Erie from 3000 to 1500. GE’s workers, the communities where GE operates, and GE’s shareholders are all tied into this mess together. Getting GE on the right course starts with GE making a commitment to their employees and the communities in which they operate.”

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UC service workers strike to fight inequality

Saying that their fight against rising inequality will continue, 20,000 University of California (UC) workers ended their three-day strike and returned to work on May 10.

The strike was called by the workers’ union AFSCME Local 3299 after university management announced that it was breaking off negotiations over a new collective bargaining agreement with the union and unilaterally imposing new terms of employment on 9000 service workers at ten UC campuses and five medical centers across the state.

Under the new terms, UC service workers, the lowest paid of all UC employees will pay more for health care coverage, wait five years longer to retire, not receive a pay raise commiserate with the high cost of living in California, and continue to face the threat of losing their jobs to outsourcing.

The decision to impose its terms on low-wage service workers comes shortly after a report commissioned by Local 3299 found that inequality at UC is prevalent and increasing.

“A taxpayer supported public university system is not the place where we should expect to see exploding wage gaps, blacks disappearing from the workforce, and an opportunity ladder that seems to prize white males above all others, but that is precisely what is happening at UC—and the trends appear to be getting worse, not better,” said Owen Li co-author of the report titled “Pioneering Inequality: Income, Racial and Gender Inequality at the University of California.

Kathy Lybarger, president of Local 3299, said that the union had been negotiating a new collective bargaining agreement with UC that it hoped would begin to address the growing trend toward inequality identified in the report, but UC abruptly ended the negotiations.

“Instead of joining us in the effort to arrest these trends, UC has insisted on deepening them—leaving workers no option but to strike,” Lybarger said.

Among other things, the report finds that:

  • Between 2005 and 2015, the ratio between average salaries of UC’s top executives and other UC employees increased from 7:1 to 9:1.
  • Starting pay for women and people of color averages as much as 21 percent less than white males and
  • UC’s outsourcing has led to a 37 percent decline in the number of African American workers at UC.

Outsourcing is the biggest driver of inequality at UC, Lybarger said.

An audit conducted by the state last year found that UC’s propensity to outsource more of its work to private companies has hit low-wage career employees the hardest.

Their jobs have been outsourced to private contractors that pay lower wages and provide fewer benefits than UC.

When the impact of its privatization efforts were called to the attention of UC President Janet Napolitano, she instituted policies that required outsourcing companies to pay a minimum wage, but according to a state’s audit, UC has been lax at enforcing its own policy.

While Napolitano has been driving down wages by outsourcing away jobs, she has been much more generous in the way that she treats her immediate staff.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that another state audit found that salaries for employees who directly work for her “are significantly higher than those of comparable state employees.”

These favored employees during the years audited also received an additional $21.6 million worth of perks that included contributions to their supplemental retirement accounts and stays at expensive hotels while travelling on UC business.

While Napolitano’s closest associates were being treated to extra perks, UC’s service workers, who include custodians, grounds keepers, security guards, and other service staff, have had to scramble to keep their livelihoods intact.

Some UC workers like Juan Donto, a groundskeeper at UC Santa Barbara, must work multiple jobs to support their families.

Donto, who works three jobs, said that having to work so much to meet his expenses has made it hard for him to spend any time with his children.

“It’s not right that the UC is known for its upstanding reputation when their workers have to work multiple jobs just to make ends meet,” Donto said. “It’s not right that Latinos and African Americans are making at least 20 percent less than their white co-workers. I ask you, why does it take an African American woman six years to make the (starting) salary of a white man?”

Air France workers reject latest proposal to end strikes

Air France workers on May 4 rejected a wage increase proposed by the company’s CEO.

After the rejection, the workers’ unions announced that a series of two-day strikes that have been going on since February will continue, and Air France’s CEO Jean-Marc Janaillac resigned.

Janaillac had hoped to end the strikes by proposing a 7 percent wage increase that would be phased in over four years.

The unions have been demanding an immediate 5 percent increase because wages at Air France have frozen for the last five years.

Janaillac bypassed the unions, which had been in negotiations with Air France, and took his proposal directly to the workers, who voted online on whether to accept or reject his offer.

Workers were told that if they didn’t accept the proposal, the very existence of Air France would be at stake.

Despite the warnings, 55 percent of Air France’s pilots, cabin crew, and ground staff voted to reject Janaillac’s proposal.

Janaillac had staked his reputation on being able to end the strikes, and the workers’ rejection of his proposal clearly left him shaken and frustrated, which led to his resignation.

“The vote is the victory, not (Janaillac’s) resignation,” said Laurent Le Gall, a representative of CFTC, one of the unions whose members work at Air France to Bloomberg News. “(He) attempted to bypass the negotiation framework with this move, and it comes back at him like a boomerang.”

After rejecting Janaillac’s wage proposal, Air France workers on Monday went on another two-day strike.

It was the 14th time since February that Air France flights have disrupted by strikes, costing the company 400 million euros.

Prior to the strikes, Air France had been reaping record profits, and its workers thought it was time that the sacrifices that they have been making since the company restructured in 2012 should be rewarded.

Since 2012, Air France’s workers have endured layoffs and wage freezes, and the unions representing them proposed an immediate 5 percent wage increase to offset some of the workers losses.

Janaillac and the French government, which owns a 12 percent share in the company thought otherwise.

They preferred that investors rather than workers should be the ones rewarded for the company’s successful recovery.

The workers’ demands for a decent pay raise have irritated the government of President Emmanuel Macron, but when they rejected Janaillac’s wage proposal, the government’s irritation morphed into imperious contempt.

French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire fumed that the workers rejection could lead to the “disappearance” of Air France, a not-so veiled threat that unless workers buckled under, Air France would go out of business.

Le Maire’s over-the-top remarks about the dangers posed to Air France by a 5 percent wage increase is not particularly out of character for a government official appointed by President Emmanuel Macron.

Since he took office a year ago, Macron’s government  has taken measures suggesting that he and his government think that workers have it too good and need be taken down a peg or two.

One of the first things that he did after becoming president was to ram through changes to the country’s labor code that made work more precarious and made it easier for businesses to fire workers and to ignore pattern-setting, industry-wide labor contracts negotiated by unions.

He told Parliament that if his proposals bogged down in debate, he would unilaterally implement them through a directive of his own.

This year, he decided that workers for the country’s public rail service SNCF had it too good, and decided to eliminate job security for new hires, reduce pension benefits, and pave the way for privatizing SCNF.

That decision has led to ongoing railway strikes. The day after Air France workers began their 14th two-day strike, rail workers began their seventh two-day strike since the beginning of April.

If that weren’t enough, Macron has proposed cutting pensions and unemployment benefits.

Macron said that the worker pain he is proposing is needed to make France more business friendly and competitive.

But workers have another view.

The New York Times reports that “many workers worry that the financing of the country’s cherished safety net will be plucked away and transferred to business for the profit of shareholders.”

In many ways that is the same feeling that Air France workers have about the company’s reluctance to share their profits with them.

Strike in Connecticut averted as lawmakers raise pay for home care workers

After the Connecticut state Senate voted to increase the pay of workers who provide home care services to people with disabilities, the workers’ union called off a strike that was scheduled to begin Monday morning.

The Senate vote sends the pay raise legislation to Gov. Daniel Malloy, who said he will sign the bill.

Connecticut’s home care workers provide personal care services to people living in group homes and to people in day programs. They haven’t had a pay raise in ten years.

Low pay and the lack of raises have made it difficult to maintain essential services needed by people with disabilities

“Our clients are like family and we are willing to fight to make sure they get the proper funding they deserve,” said  Kim Ackerman, a home care worker, explaining why she was ready to strike.

Connecticut home care workers like Ackerman are members of SEIU Healthcare 1199NE.

The union called for the strike after its efforts to increase funding for home care services stalled in the legislature.

The state provides funding used to pay private companies that hire workers to provide the care.

For the last ten years, the funding for these services has remained flat.

The union had been working with the governor and lawmakers to find a way to increase funding, but it took the possibility of a strike to focus lawmaker attention on this problem.

The union had originally planned to begin the strike on April 18, but a plea by Gov. Malloy led to a postponement.

When lawmakers dithered about increasing funding, the union announced that the strike would begin on May 7.

About a week before the strike was to begin, the state’s Office of Policy Management Secretary Ben Barnes proposed legislation that would raise home care workers’ pay to a minimum of $14.75 an hour effective January 1, 2019.

Barnes’ proposal included a one-time 5 percent raise for workers who already earn $14.75 an hour.

The state House of Representatives approved the proposal about a week ago, and the Senate concurred over the weekend.

The long overdue raise will provide some relief to workers and to their employers.

Before passage of the funding bill, Jennifer Schneider, a spokesperson for SEIU 1199NE, said that under funding home care services had created a crisis in the state.

“When privatized group homes and programs are shuttering and workers are forced to work 80 hours a week just to make ends meet, something has to change,” Schneider said.”

 

In addition to working long hours, some personal care workers have been forced to rely on public assistance to make ends meet.

The union estimates that 35 percent of its members receive some form of public assistance.

 

 

The problems faced by Connecticut’s home care workers and the people served by them are not unique.

In fact there is a crisis of care all over the US.

For instance, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that in Minnesota the number of unfilled personal home care positions has “skyrocketed” from 2,038 in 2012 to 7,766 in 2017.

As a result, some people with disabilities have been forced to live in nursing homes rather than in less restrictive settings.

The Star Tribune blames the dearth of personal care workers on the job’s low pay, which the newspaper says is on average between $12 and $13 an hour.

The $12 to $13 an hour that Minnesota personal care workers are paid is actually a well above the national average.

According to PHI, a policy and advocacy organization, the average pay for a home care provider nationally is $10.11 an hour, which adjusted for inflation is $0.10 less than it was in 2005.

Low pay means a high level of poverty for home care workers who are overwhelmingly female and people of color, continues PHI. “24 percent of home workers live in households below the federal poverty line, compared to 9 percent of all US workers.”

Low pay is driving many qualified workers away from home care work and into jobs that pay more.

Unfortunately, this exodus is coming at a time when there is a growing need for these services.

In its report on home care needs, PHI says that demographic changes in the coming years will create a greater need for home care workers.

PHI estimates that by 2024 more than 633,000 new home care jobs will be created, but low pay will mean that many of these jobs will go unfilled.

“If the home care workforce is to grow, jobs will need to be more competitive, offering
higher wages and improved working conditions,” concludes the PHI report.

Women fight sexual harassment at XPO

Women workers from an XPO Logistics warehouse in Memphis traveled to Seattle to demand that their employer be held accountable for sexual harassment that they are experiencing on the job.

The women were joined in Seattle by women’s rights activists and members of the Teamsters union who demonstrated with them at Verizon’s annual shareholders meeting.

Verizon contracts with XPO to operate the Memphis warehouse where a number of Verizon’s products are stored and shipped to customers all over the US.

In April three women at the warehouse filed charges with Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charging that XPO supervisors had groped them and made inappropriate and unwanted sexual comments and advances toward them.

A few weeks later, five more women filed similar charges.

“My coworkers and I were sexually harassed all the time with nowhere to turn,” said Lakeisha Nelson, one of the women who filed charges against XPO. “Our warehouse is an essential part of Verizon’s supply chain, and I hope now that we have the ear of Verizon’s CEO and board, that the company will help us end supervisor sexual harassment and misconduct at XPO once and for all.”

Later in the day, Nelson and Tasha Murrell, another XPO employee, met with Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam and two Verizon board members to discuss the charges.

After the meeting, a Verizon spokesperson told USA Today that as soon as Verizon learned of the charges, the company began its own investigation into the matter.

At the Seattle demonstration, Nelson and Murrell were joined by supporters of the TimesUp and MeToo campaigns against sexual harassment.

Prior to the demonstration, prominent activists in the two campaigns wrote a letter to McAdam informing him and the Verizon board about the charges.

The letter was signed by Gloria Sweet-Love, president of the NAACP Tennessee State Conference, Cherisse A. Scott, CEO and founder of SisterReach, Elizabeth Gedmark, senior staff attorney/director of the Southern Office of A Better Balance: The Work and Family Legal Center, Sarah David Heydemann, legal fellow, Workplace Justice National Women’s Law Center, and Gabrielle Carteris, president SAG-AFTRA

James P. Hoffa, general president of the Teamsters, also signed the letter.

According to the letter, most of the workers at the Memphis XPO warehouse are African-American women, and most of the supervisors are white men.

The letter goes on to describe some of the harassment that XPO women workers endure.

“Numerous women told stories of how they and their coworkers regularly faced
disturbing behavior from their supervisors, including aggressive groping and grabbing,
uncomfortable sexual comments, and retaliation for reporting harassment to HR or not
entertaining the sexual advances,” states the letter.

The signees called on Verizon to “hold XPO accountable for the shocking and inexcusable
treatment of its workers.”

In addition to sexual harassment, workers at the XPO Memphis warehouse have other grievances including dangerous working conditions, low pay, having to work shifts that can last as long as 15 hours, and lack of control over their fluctuating hours, shifts, and work week.

They are also angry about the company’s lack of respect toward them.

“XPO management forces workers to remove their bras at the security checkpoint, we see snakes, rats, lizards and bugs,” said Elizabeth Howley, an XPO worker in April. “We don’t have any nurses or defibrillators, and no one is allowed to do CPR, even if certified. A co-worker died and we had to work around her body. We don’t deserve to be treated like this. No one does.”

Howley was referring to Linda Jo Neal, a 58-year old XPO Memphis worker who in October collapsed on the job and died of a heart attack.

According to XPO workers who were on the scene when Neal collapsed, those who tried to help her were warned by supervisors not to do so under threat of disciplinary action.

These conditions have led XPO workers to begin trying to organize a union.

They have received help from the Teamsters who have an ongoing organizing campaign at XPO, one of the biggest and fastest growing logistics companies in the world.

The Teamsters have won union election campaigns at XPO warehouses in Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Texas.

But XPO has relied on questionable and possibly illegal tactics to keep from bargaining with the union.

In January, an administrative law judge with the National Labor Relations Board ruled that XPO violated the law when it withheld raises from workers who voted to join the union and required the company to pay the workers millions of dollars owed to them in back pay.

One thing that the Memphis workers have in common with other XPO workers is that the company treats its frontline workers as so many interchangeable parts, as if they were just gears in a machine.

“I am human,” said Nelson at a union rally in April. “(XPO must) treat me as such. Give me that respect.”

JetBlue flight attendants turn the tide; vote to unionize

While teacher strikes dominated the labor news during April, another group of white-collar workers made an important statement when they voted to unionize,

Just like teachers in West Virginia and other states who decided that collective action is the only way to get their voice heard, JetBlue flight attendants voted 2661 to 1274 to join the Transport Workers Union (TWU).

John Samuelson, TWU’s president, said that the union vote at JetBlue is “yet another example of the tide turning in America as workers continue to lock arms and fight back to defend their livelihoods.”

Since JetBlue began operations in 1998, management has styled the airline as a new kind of business: one that brings “humanity back to air travel.”

JetBlue, so the story went, would use technology to enhance air travel for customers, and build a direct relationship with employees to make JetBlue a great place to work.

Unions might be needed at other airlines, but at JetBlue, a third party such as a union could only get in the way of this direct and special relationship shared by employer and employee.

Unfortunately, a third party did get in the way of this special relationship, but it wasn’t a union.

Wall Street investors began demanding more profits from JetBlue, and management paid attention to this third party.

To appease Wall Street, JetBlue began looking for ways to cut costs to boost profits.

The company added more seats to their airplanes and reduced the number of flight attendants on them.

It reduced cleaning staff and made flight attendants perform more of the cleaning work.

To save money of health care costs, it dramatically increased the amount that employees pay for their health care benefit.

It also kept flight attendants’ pay well below industry standards set by unionized airlines.

When the company’s own work rules got in the way of its profits, management arbitrarily revised or reinterpreted them without any input from employees, belying the company’s direct relationship with employees.

These grievances along with the fact that JetBlue is an at will employer with no grievance procedures for appealing unjust firings or disciplinary actions made some flight attendants think that they needed a union, and they contacted TWU.

TWU organizers helped the union supporters set up an organizing committee, and members of the organizing committee began circulating union authorization cards asking for a union representation at JetBlue.

When word about the organizing campaign got out last summer, management launched an aggressive counter attack.

In e-mails and direct mailings to flight attendants, the company ignored the fact that its own employees were the driving force behind the organizing campaign and blamed it on outside agitators.

A company email to flight attendants called TWU “an opportunistic and negative third party” and accused the union of criminal behavior.

Labor Press reports that JetBlue worked with the right-wing anti-union groups Center for Union Facts and the National Right to Work (for less) Defense Foundation to carry out its anti-union campaign.

It also hired a union avoidance law firm.

In addition to a barrage of misinformation sent by e-mail and direct mail, anti-union websites purportedly operated by flight attendants popped up urging flight attendants to reject the union.

JetBlue also took a softer approach. In January, one month after union supporters petitioned the National Mediation Board for a union election, the company announced that it was giving all employees a $1000 bonus because of the new tax cut.

But neither the company’s hard line nor its soft approach proved effective.

When the results of the  union election were announced on April 16, 66 percent of the more than 4000 flight attendants who voted, voted for the union.

The next step will be for the union to gather information from members and decide what issues to take to the bargaining table.

JetBlue has already indicated that it may try to delay the negotiations in hopes that the union will be unable to sustain itself.

As part of its anti-union pitch before the election, JetBlue pointed to the length of time it took for TWU to negotiate a first contract with Allegiant airlines, and intimated that a union at JetBlue would face the same uphill battle.

What the company failed to mention is that when TWU finally did negotiate its first collective bargaining agreement with Allegiant, flight attendants got a 33 percent pay raise over the five years of the agreement.

Samuelson said that TWU had no intention of letting negotiations with JetBlue drag on for a long time.

“TWU intends to immediately commence contract bargaining with JetBlue,” Samuelson said. “It is our sincerest wish that the company comes to the table and bargains a fair and just contract with the workers they employ. But if JetBlue refuses to bargain in good faith, this union is prepared to engage in a fight back campaign that will continue until a contract is secured and the inflight crew members are protected.”

 

 

Teachers strike against austerity

2018 has been the year of the teachers’ strike. West Virginia, Kentucky, and Oklahoma teachers have walked off the job and won major victories for public education.

On April 26, teachers and education support employees in Arizona and Colorado joined the strike movement.

In Arizona striking teachers and their supporters marched through downtown Phoenix to the state capitol in 100 degree weather to demand more funding for public education.

Defying a threat of arrest, Colorado teachers walked off the job and rallied in Denver, the state capital, for more funding for public education.

Teacher strikes haven’t been confined to the US. On April 16, teachers in Tunisia began a strike that affected the country’s high schools and colleges.

Tunisian teachers are also demanding more funding for the country’s public schools.

These strikes and the ones that came before them have one thing in common: they are all demanding an end to their governments’ austerity policies that for the last ten years have cut public education funding and funding for other public services.

In Arizona, teachers created the #RedforEd movement to restore public education funding.

Wearing their red t-shirts, an estimated 75,000 teachers, school support staff, and public education supporters flooded the streets of Phoenix on their way from a downtown baseball field to the state capitol.

They came to town to demand that Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and state lawmakers restore more than $1 billion cut from the state’s education budget over the last ten years.

In a letter to Gov. Ducey, the Arizona Education Association and Arizona Educators United describe some of the challenges their students face because of the state’s austerity measures.

“Our classrooms go without updated textbooks, basic supplies, and technology,” states the letter. “We have among the highest class sizes and school counselor ratios in the nation making it difficult to meet the individual needs of students.”

In addition, school buildings and school buses are not being repaired creating dangerous conditions for learning.

Since Arizona began cutting its education budget, spending per student has dropped to $7500 per student, the third lowest rate of spending per pupil among all states in the US.

Teachers want Gov. Ducey to increase education funding per pupil, so that it rises to the national average.

Cuts to the education budget have also resulted in stagnant teacher pay causing an exodus of qualified teachers, and a dearth of new teachers to take their place, leading to a teacher shortage and overcrowded classrooms.

Teachers are demanding a 20 percent pay increase, so that local school districts can retain experienced, quality educators and attract qualified newcomers to the profession.

Additionally, they want a competitive pay raise for school support staff, whose services play a vital role in the education of the state’s children.

Before the strike began and after teachers announced their decision to strike, Gov. Ducey tried to dissuade them by offering teachers a 20 percent pay increase.

Teachers rejected his proposal because it wouldn’t do anything about lowering class sizes or fixing local districts’ dilapidated infrastructure and because the governor proposed to funding the raises by taking money from state programs that serve low-income children and their families.

Like the #RedforEd movement in Arizona, the Colorado teachers’ #WeAreRed movement is fighting to restore money slashed from education budgets.

According to the Colorado Education Association, (CEA) these cuts have resulted in an $828 million under funding of Colorado’s public schools this year.

This year’s education funding deficit isn’t unique. For year, the state has scrimped on funding education.

As a result, teacher pay has not kept up with increases in the cost of living. CEA reports that over the last 15 years, teacher pay has been reduced by 17 percent when adjusted for inf lation.

Teachers in Colorado are also mad at the attempt by some lawmakers to undermine their pensions.

Legilslation was introduced this session to expand defined contribution retirement plans at the expense of teachers’ more traditional defined benefit pensions.

A mass mobilization of teachers and other education employees eliminated this proposal from pension legislation being considered by lawmakers, and the mobilization resulted in an infusion of $225 million to shore up the pension fund.

When Colorado teachers announced that they planned to strike, some lawmakers introduced legislation to make teacher strikes an illegal offensive that could result in jail time for those participating in strikes.

That threat didn’t keep thousands of Colorado teachers from walking off the job both Thursday and Friday resulting in school closures in at least 27 districts.

In Tunisia, secondary and college teachers on April 16 began an indefinite strike to stop cuts to public education being proposed by the government.

The teachers’ union, the FGESEC, blamed the government’s cuts on the International Monetary Fund, which has insisted on a number of austerity measures including cuts to education in return for a loan that the government requested.

The union is demanding wage increases for teachers, retirement at age 55 after 30 years of service, more progressive schools, a democratic education structure that benefits all children, teaching of the national culture, and an end to privatization of government resources including schools.

In Arizona, teachers were disappointed when Gov. Ducey refused to meet with them and  lawmakers adjourned and left town rather than meet face-to-face with angry teachers.

But the teachers weren’t deterred. They returned to the Capitol on Friday, and vowed to continue their fight.

“They ran from red,” said an AEA posting on its Facebook page referring to the #RedforEd movement. “But we’ll be back. We’re not giving up.”