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D.C. Families, Trumka Demand Respect for Teachers


D.C. Families, Trumka Demand Respect for Teachers

by Seth Michaels, Oct 9, 2009

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka tells supporters of D.C. school employees the school district’s layoffs are ‘a cold hard case of union-busting.’

Thousands of students, parents, teachers and community members from across Washington, D.C., converged on the district’s Freedom Plaza yesterday afternoon to rally in support of hundreds of laid-off teachers.

Nearly 400 school employees have been laid off as a result of controversial decisions by D.C. school chancellor Michelle Rhee. The layoffs include 229 classroom teachers, many of them veterans. The Washington Teachers’ Union (WTU) has protested the layoffs, saying that many teachers have been targeted for their age and that the firings are poorly timed and an attempt to undermine the teachers’ contract.

At yesterday’s rally, reports Chris Garlock of the Metropolitan Washington Council, D.C. residents and students of all ages spoke out strongly in support of their teachers. It was one of the largest labor rallies in recent memory in the District. At the rally it was announced that a delegation of teachers sought to present to Mayor Adrian Fenty with a statement in opposition to the layoffs, but Fenty’s assistant wouldn’t even come to the door to accept it.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called the firings “a cold hard case of union busting,” and said that union members across the city stand in solidarity with fired teachers:

The labor movement is right here with you. We’ll stand shoulder to shoulder with you for as long as it takes.

Here and across the country, public education and our school children are the victims of wrong-headed efforts to fill state and local budget gaps. Children are the scapegoats. Class sizes are growing beyond anything that makes a shred of sense. After-school and early education programs are disappearing. Teachers are buying school supplies out of their own pockets, and children are losing teachers they love and trust.

Listen, you don’t make better schools by firing teachers. You don’t engage students in learning by disrespecting their educators. You don’t teach children values by discarding values. You may close a short-term budget hole, but it’s at our children’s expense. And that price is too high to pay.

AFT President Randi Weingarten and other top union leaders, as well as members of the D.C. City Council, took part in the rally. City Council members have announced their intention to hold hearings into the public school system’s hiring and firing policies, and the WTU has filed suit to block the layoffs. Weingarten said that these cuts to vital teachers and school staff are hitting students the hardest.

Susan Dunn, a 23-year veteran teacher and the parent of a 6th grader, said the layoffs are exactly the wrong policy to sustain D.C. schools:

Rhee is just out of touch with what’s really happening in the schools. We don’t have a contract, we haven’t had a raise in five years and now they’re firing people without explanation. Morale is terrible

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