The power of solidarity was on display for everyone to see as the teachers of Arizona stood together to demand justice. Our union, UFCW Local 99, stood with them.
Across the state, teachers wore red and took to the streets to seek better pay and adequate funding for their mission to educate our youth.
The great Arizona teacher’s strike ended just before dawn on May 3, when the state legislature passed, and Gov. Doug Ducey quickly approved, a much-needed 20% funding increase. They also agreed to invest an additional $138 million into Arizona’s public schools.
“We will return to our schools, classrooms and students knowing that we have achieved something truly historic,” Arizona Education Association President Joe Thomas and National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García said in a joint statement.
“We should take pride in what we have accomplished, and in the movement that we have created together.”
Arizona’s week-long #RedforEd walkout began almost spontaneously in the aftermath of similar actions in West Virginia, Oklahoma and Kentucky, where educators rebelled against decades of budget cuts and “pension reforms” that demonstrated the low priority lawmakers had given to the professionals who teach at public schools.
The same trends were evident in Arizona, where misguided legislators have over the years dramatically cut taxes for wealthy individuals and corporations, in turn reducing revenues and putting the squeeze on students and teachers.
Many teachers in the state are forced to take second and third jobs to support themselves and their families. Still more of them routinely buy school supplies out of their own nearly-empty pockets.
This is not the way we should treat our teachers, who are entrusted to nurture, educate and inspire our children in their journey to adulthood and taking on the responsibilities of work, family and civic participation.
UFCW Local 99 has always been a strong advocate for education for our members, just as we have supported the struggles of educators to get the respect they deserve. This is why it is important for our union to support efforts to pass an initiative to create a permanent funding stream to ensure we live up to the commitments to fund education properly.
It’s also why I was grateful for the opportunity to address a rally for 50,000 people in support of the teachers’ cause.
As I looked out on a sea of people dressed in bright red and holding aloft signs of solidarity, I couldn’t be more proud of the Labor Movement and its potential for positive social change.
I spoke both as a labor leader and as a father of three. I also repeated what I said in a letter I wrote to Arizona’s educators a few days earlier:
“Make your demands. Again. And again. Know that you have friends all over this state. They, as am I, are proud to call you our Brothers and Sisters.”
See you in November!