Denver teachers vote to strike
Denver, CO – Teachers from Denver Public Schools, represented by the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA), voted 93% in favor of a strike after the breakdown of negotiations with the board of Denver Public Schools (DPS). This is the first strike authorization for Denver Teachers since 1994.
The DCTA and the Denver school board negotiated for a month until talks broke down on January 18. DCTA has been insisting on increased salaries for its members as it noted that the school district cannot retain quality teachers at the current rates. DCTA sees this struggle for higher wages as a social justice issue. “They are striking for better pay, they’re striking for the profession and they are striking for Denver students,” stated teacher and union negotiator Rob Gould.
The union was asking for an increase in base pay for its members and to diminish the reliance on one-time bonuses – which, for example, are given for having students in their classroom with high standardized test scores. When DPS only offered an amount of money that was less than 1% of the DPS budget the talks broke down. Denver teachers were clear that they were seeking an increase in base pay that would allow Denver to retain qualified and dedicated teachers. “I could leave today and go to Boulder and get a $20,000 increase with my experience and education,” said Lisa Yemma, a Denver teacher with over six years of experience.
The strike was scheduled to begin on January 28 and DPS made it clear that they would do everything to frustrate the strike. DPS has promised to pay substitute teachers double their normal pay to work during the strike. On January 23, DPS asked the State of Colorado to intervene, which means that the strike could be delayed for up to six months.
DCTA, in a message to its members, made it clear that they would continue to struggle for better pay and conditions for its members and that it opposes state intervention in their dispute with DPS. “Over the weekend, 93% of DCTA voters approved a strike. We hope that the State honors that vote and rules not to intervene,” the message stated.
The massive vote in favor of a strike is a continuation of the struggle for better pay and conditions for teachers that has broken out all over the country. Recently, in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arizona, Washington State, Pueblo Colorado, and Los Angeles, teachers have taken their struggles for better pay and conditions, and against the nefarious effects of anti-worker legislation such as No Child Left Behind, to the streets. DCTA vows to continue its struggle for fairness for Denver teachers.