The last couple of weeks was lively and filled with happenings that will keep us all on our toes, especially in fighting for what is simply conscientious for all our brothers and sisters: 1) Securing a respectful Denver Classroom Teacher Association’s (DCTA) Master contract and, 2) Preserving the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). These two subjects are near and dear to my heart.
As we slip into this work week, let us not forget the contributions, achievements and sacrifices of our past and current working class. Our beautiful country was built on the backs of our great-great grandparents and even their children who tirelessly worked from sunup to sundown. The Industrial Revolution was one of the stand-out peaks of our economic history, but this peak was also marked by dangerous and relentless working conditions that resulted in meager pay and/or even loss of life for the mostly immigrant workforce. With Labor Day behind us, we need to remember that this situation was reality over 200 years of this country’s history, and to forget that disconnects us from our current reality. “Those who don't know history are doomed to repeat it,” said the Irishman and philosopher, Edmund Burke. If there is ever a time to make the sacrifice to be well-informed, it’s today!
The DCTA Bargaining Committee engaged in a marathon of a fight recently, and I am grateful to them and all the supporters that showed up to the bargaining events. A tentative five-year agreement was reached at 4:15 am on a Friday because of their tireless mental gymnastics and sacrifices made outside of an already demanding job. But make note that these committee members didn’t work just that week, they were at the negotiation table for over a year. The district’s bargaining crew didn’t make this an easy process when they created intentional hurdles that included blatant refusals to negotiate, impasses and, often quickly saying “no” without proper consideration to the union’s requests.
Although there are several key points in the tentative agreement, one that stands out is an increase to teacher base salaries by about $1400 per year, which still leaves teachers earning below a livable wage when we consider the cost of living hike in Denver. Not to mention, when you divide that by the hours beyond 40/week that teachers dedicate, it makes it penny increases to the monthly pay check –and measly ducats toward affording an apartment in the city where most work. And while the district is touting a 5 percent salary increase in the media, veteran teachers are actually receiving considerably less, percentage-wise.
Now consider that most teachers hope and pray to avoid any serious illness because health care costs will likely result in dire financial conditions. Teachers that opt for the district insurance, which decreased to a quality that is competitive only to the Affordable Care Act options on the exchange, resulted in deductibles ranging from $2K-5K. Subsequently, our teachers are overworked yet, often keep a second job to make ends meet – as I was also forced to do during my tenure as a DPS teacher.
In spite of conditions that obviously differ today from what our ancestors dealt with prior to the labor movement, the sub-standard wages faced by our teachers today parallel those endured by the workforce in the 19th century – teachers, tell me when I’m lying. What’s even more compelling is that our passionate, experienced and dedicated educators contribute to the foundation of our future leaders. Among these future leaders include children of undocumented immigrants, our Dreamers. Check this link out with some amazing stories of Dreamers making our country better:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/18/dreamers-stories_n_4296012.html
So let’s remember, we must lock arms with our ‘woke’ communities to thwart the backwards direction to the time where bigotry and injustices made our country ugly and where people stood on the wrong side of history. For education and protecting our Dreamers is a human right. ¡El pueblo unido jamás será vencido!