Solidarity for Medford Education Association and supporter from Portland Teachers Solidarity Campaign

2014 February 10
by admin

1891166_10152059572762886_26829244_nThe Portland Teachers Solidarity Campaign (PTSC) sends greetings of solidarity to the Medford Education Association, and to all of the Medford and Rogue Valley labor and community groups who are rallying behind the MEA teachers as they seek a fair contract that protects teachers, protects students and protects public education in Southern Oregon.

PTSC is organizing parents, community members and students in solidarity with the teachers of the Portland Association of Teachers (PAT).

We understand the that the MEA teachers have struck today. We are 100% behind you.

Last night in Portland, the PAT teachers voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike here. Media are reporting a likely strike date of February 20 but we have not heard a date officially from PAT yet. PTSC and the Portland Student Union (PdxSU) organized a support rally in downtown Portland of over 300 people as our teachers went in to the vote. We are 100% behind them too. Earlier in the day PdxSU had organized actions at 5 of Portland’s 9 high schools including three walkouts in each of which more than 200 students participated.

We know that Medford teachers would have preferred not to have to strike. We know you have engaged in protracted negotiations while working without a contract. We know you have had unreasonable terms imposed on you by the Medford School District. Striking was not your first choice, it was forced upon you. But at some point, too much is too much, and MEA teachers have reached that point. We salute the MEA teachers for standing up for yourselves, and salute your labor and community allies in the Rogue Valley for standing up with you.

The struggle in Medford is our struggle too. What is happening in Medford is not isolated. It forms part of a pattern that was visible in the teacher contract struggles in the Reynolds, Parkrose and Gresham-Barlow School Districts of East Multnomah County in 2012, which resulted in two strikes. That pattern is also visible today in the contract struggle to get a good contract from the Portland Public School District by the PAT, which has now led to a strike authorization.

Common elements in the pattern we see include highly aggressive bargaining approaches by the districts, backed by corporate management ideology, with demands for large concessions. Teachers face attacks for organizing to uphold strong workplace, workload and educational standards, along with decent pay and benefits for the skilled, difficult work they do.

Behind this pattern lie two intersecting agendas. On the one hand, fake school reformers push failed approaches to educational change, that use high stakes standardized student test results inappropriately to evaluate teachers, schools and districts.This kind of failed reform pits schools and districts against one another. It deprives schools and districts most in need of support of the resources they need. It takes money and time out of actual education to pay for and administer tests, while putting pressure on teachers to teach to tests unrelated to actual curriculum, disrupting and degrading the quality of education. This fake reform agenda is pushed by interests that seek to privatize public education and profit from expensive, lucrative corporate testing and consulting rackets. Every dollar misspent that way takes money out of reasonable class sizes, classroom support, and on-site direct student services.

On the other hand, the rhetoric of the fake reformers folds into a wider attack against public sector workers across the board. The rhetoric seeks to blame teachers for problems really rooted in underfunding, restriction of the tax base for schools, and wider social problems, The wider anti-public worker attack was seen in the 2013 legislative session in massive cuts to public sector pensions. It is back in 2014 with the rise of a right-wing “right to freeload” ballot initiative, that proposes to allow public workers to benefit from union collective bargaining without paying dues or agency fees.

The ultimate aim of that initiative is to deny organized workers in Oregon an effective voice in their workplaces and in public debates. If the anti-public worker initiative succeeds, private sector union workers will be next.

Both the attacks on teachers, and the attacks on public workers generally, seek to demonize reasonable wages, salaries and benefits as “privileged.” Calling good wages and benefits a privilege really means setting living standards at below good. It means setting living standards below good all workers, public and private.

We in the PTSC understand that when teachers stand up for themselves, they stand up for the rest of us too. In the classroom, teachers’ working conditions are students’ learning conditions, and contracts that protect those conditions protect students. Teachers’ struggles also protect public education as an institution against the corporate privatizers, profiteers, and fake reformers. And teachers as workers holding the line on adequate compensation and benefits forms part of the wider fight against a race to the bottom economy.

That is why we as students, parents, critics of corporate school deformation, trade unionists of all sorts, and members of the community at large, who understand the importance of teachers and education for everyone, and the need for all of us to defend decent standards of living, are rallying behind teachers. We came together in support of the East Multnomah County teachers in 2012. We are rallying around Portland teachers now in Portland. And we join the MEA’s Rogue Valley supporters in backing Medford teachers in their fight.

Solidarity Forever!

Portland Teachers Solidarity Campaign

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