North Carolina Teachers to Strike in May – Louisiana Teachers Could Follow – Georgia Bus Drivers Fired for Striking

Protesters cheers as they gather on Halifax Mall near the General Assembly on Monday, June 3, 2013, in Raleigh, N.C. More than 100 people have been arrested in the largest demonstrations yet in the state chapter of the NAACP's campaign against the Republican-led General Assembly. Police estimate that roughly 1,000 people attended a rally late Monday afternoon behind the Legislative Building on Halifax Mall. Hundreds later entered the building, with those intending to get arrested wearing green wrist bands. (AP Photo/The News & Observer, Chris Seward)

North Carolina Teachers to Strike in May – Louisiana Teachers Could Follow – Georgia Bus Drivers Fired for Striking

By Mike Elk with help from Max Zahn.

Greeting from the mountains outside of Tucson, Arizona where Payday Senior Labor Reporter Mike Elk after spending 5 weeks on road, finally got the weekend off to hike in Saguaro National Park and cross the border over into Nogales, Mexico for his visit to Mexico.

We bring you a special Monday Payday Report summing up potential strikes now breaking out in 6 states.

Also, towards the end of the newsletter, we bring you an update on Payday’s expansion plans including bringing on staff to increase our capacity as well as our positive action hiring plan to bring women of color onto the labor beat. 

North Carolina Teachers to Strike on May 16th

This weekend, the North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) called on educators to use their personal days for a one-day “strike and rally on May 16th. The strike will coincide with the first day of the North Carolina General Assembly, which has cut education funding as a result of $3.5 billion in income tax cuts enacted during the Great Recession.

The North Carolina teachers, like their counterparts in Arizona, plan to rally under the #RedForEd Banner on May 16th.

“Educators from all over the state are converging here in Raleigh for the opening of the General Assembly to let them know our students deserve more, and we demand respect. Educators and their supporters are taking action, all over the country, it’s our turn now” said the North Carolina Association of Educators in a statement.

Louisiana Teachers Polling for Strike Support

Citing the examples of states like Oklahoma, West Virginia, and Kentucky where teachers have won changes by striking, the Louisiana Teachers Association is currently surveying its membership to see if they are interested in striking.

According to Louisiana Federation of Teachers, teachers in the state are currently paid $2,000 below the Southern regional average. Teachers say that the low pay and poor education funding leads to the state consistently ranking last in the country in terms of quality education.

“Nobody likes the idea of going on strike,” Louisiana Federation of Teachers spokesman Landon told The Daily Advertiser. “But when you are pushed to the limit and you’re fed up, there is no guessing what teachers will be willing to do, and that’s why we are doing the survey.”

Payday Raises $1,270 for Arizona Teachers’ Strike Fund Coverage

Due to a big haul during the last week, Payday has brought in $1,270 to cover the costs of our trip. Between flights ($676 round trip), accommodations for a week ($547), rental car ($193), gas ($73), and food (easily over $100), we are still $319 short of breaking even on this trip without dipping into our reserve fund need for our expansion and positive action hiring plan. 

So if you can, please donate to our Arizona Teachers’ Strike Fund coverage today.

Thousands of Colorado Teachers Walk Out

Over 10,000 teachers in Colorado walked out on Thursday and Friday, many of them descending on the capitol in Denver. Classes were canceled in at least 27 districts that serve over 600,000 students as a result.

According to the Colorado Education Association (CEA), the state’s schools are underfunded by $822 million in order to pay for corporate tax breaks. Citing studies done by the union, the CEA contends that salaries in the state are $2,700 below the national average despite the state showing positive revenue growth.

“Now is the time to build on Colorado’s economic growth and focus on a future where all Colorado families and communities can thrive,” said Kerri Dallman, president of the CEA. “We need to make sure we have great public schools in all our communities, where every child has the opportunity to succeed.”

Hundreds of Georgia Bus Drivers Hold Sickout; Seven Fired

Last week, hundreds of bus drivers held a three-day sickout in Dekalb County, Georgia to protest insufficient pay, health insurance coverage, and retirement benefits.

Melanie Douglas, one of the bus drivers who lost her job, said she lost her job because she spoke up last Tuesday at a meeting between DeKalb County Schools Superintendent Stephen Green and about 400 drivers.

“Because we have so much mouth on us,” Douglas told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “they want us gone.”

(Rachel Cohen at the Intercept has more on the broader significance of the Georgia Bus Drivers strike).

24,000 University of California Workers Vote to Strike

Meanwhile, in California, AFSCME Local 3299 called a three-day strike on behalf of 24,000 University of California medical and service workers, after a strike authorization vote showed  97% support for the tactic.

AFSCME Local 3299 has been negotiating for a contract with the state’s university system for more than a year but remains frustrated by a lack of racial diversity in the workforce and a wide pay gap between administrators and workers.

“When a taxpayer-funded university – whose operations in California are larger than Walmart’s are in this state – fails to meet standards of fairness and equality, it’s our duty and responsibility as Californians to hold them accountable,” said Kathryn Lybarger, lead gardener at UC Berkeley and president of AFSCME Local 3299, in a statement released by the union.

The union has called on Democratic U.S. Senator Kamala Harris to forego her upcoming commencement address at the University of California, Berkeley in solidarity with the workers. Payday Report asked Harris whether she intends to deliver the speech, but she did not respond by the time of publication. We will update soon with more information.

If Harris does not support the workers in their battle against the University of California system, it could hurt her potential 2020 presidential candidacy.

Columbia University Graduate Students Go on Strike

Back on the east coast, hundreds of graduate employees at Columbia University began a one-week strike on Tuesday, aiming to put pressure on the administration as the school enters a busy period of final exams and end-of-year assignments.

The graduate employees unionized with the United Auto Workers almost a year and a half ago, but the administration has said it will not bargain with them. Instead, it will challenge the union in federal appeals court.

“We are workers but that hasn’t been acknowledged,” Natalie McCann, a graduate student in the departments of art history and archaeology, told the Columbia Spectator. “It’s below the level of an unpaid internship, we’re basically treated as serfs here in the University in exchange for them waving our tuition.”

Teachers in Nevada Exploring Ways to Push Job Action

Teachers’ union leaders in Nevada say that they are dissuaded by the state’s severe penalties for striking. Already, Bruce Snyder, the state’s Republican employee management commission board chairman has threatened to fine the teacher’s union as much as $50,000 a day and fire strike leaders.

“The penalties are very severe here in Nevada for striking, so I don’t think you’re going to get anything like that,” Clark County Education Association Executive Director John Vellardita told the Las Vegas Review-Journal earlier this month.

In other states, other union leaders have made similar declarations to avoid legal liability, while their rank-and-file decided to strike independently.

While it’s unclear if teachers in Nevada will move to strike,  it is clear that they are exploring ways to use the energy of the teachers’ strikes to push for legislative action.


A Note on Payday’s Expansion from the Senior Labor Reporter

Some of Payday’s products like the newsletter have dropped as a result of overwork as the strike wave has dramatically increased interest from funders in giving Payday money to do labor reporting.

The good news is that our monthly revenue is now up to $4,000 a month in addition to occasional grants and commissions as high as a few thousands dollars a month that Mike Elk receives from the Guardian. 

We want to expand in order to do more, and we also want to make our small team much more diverse.

Unlike other left publications, we plan to lead by example in paying $25 an hour for occasional work.

Payday Using Positive Action to Hire More Women of Color on the Labor Beat

Already, Professor Karina Moreno has begun collaborating with Mike Elk on articles about Latinos in baseball and sexual harassment in the labor movement. They should have more stories coming out this summer.

Max Zahn, a talented labor reporter from New York, who has worked for several Long Island newspapers and a union organizer before entering CUNY Journalism Grad School will also be assisting in that newsletter gets out every week.

We plan to use positive action hiring to hire a group of diverse people to do the work particularly women of color. We intend to hire a group of diverse people who are representative of the people we are covering. If you are interested in applying, please email: [email protected]

Readers Advisory Board to Help Manage Expansion

Over the next year, Payday intends to set up a reader’s advisory board to both give readers more of a voice in the running of the publication and to help manage our expansion to assist in seeking grants and more donations. If you are interested in getting involved in a reader’s advisory board, please contact [email protected]

About the Author

Mike Elk
Mike Elk is an Emmy-nominated labor reporter and alumni of the Guardian. In addition to filing nearly 2,000 stories from 46 states, Elk traveled with Lula from Sáo Bernando do Campos all the way to the Oval Office in the White House. Credited by the Washington Post for being the first reporter to track the strike wave systematically, Elk started Payday Report using his NLRB settlement from being illegally fired for union organizing in 2015. He lives in his hometown of Pittsburgh and works frequently in Rio de Janeiro, where he attended college at PUC-Rio. He speaks both Portuguese and Pittsburghese fluently. His email is [email protected]

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