Tuesday, September 16, 2003

I'm Off To The Picket Lines...

I'm going with my hubby to the picket lines today to show a little support. I may be iffy about unions, and hate strikes, but the more I read about the Marysville School District administration, the more I think that something needs to give, and soon. There's something rotten in the MSD, and her name is Linda Whitehead. Superintendents who get $30,000 raises over the last two years then cut teacher pay should not be allowed. At the very least, she should take a pay cut also. Though I'm thinking that it would be best for the school district if she had resigned when she got the vote of no confidence a couple of years ago... or even resigned now. Ahem. Anyway, I'm rambling. I'll post more reviews later today, and probably a bit more about the strike as an update. Gotta cruise, now. Lots to do.

Update - 12:20: Just got back. I'm exhausted. Walking for two hours followed by standing for an hour and a half is not the easiest. I started out the morning walking the line with hubby-Eric and his colleagues. After awhile I couldn't keep walking, so I stood holding a sign that said "I support Marysville Teachers" and waving and nodding at passing cars. Most people didn't make eye-contact. There's a stigma against making eye-contact or something when you are driving. Those that did make eye-contact with me generally responded. Of those who responded, I'd say nine out of ten were positive.

One guy, stopped at the light, had a tie hanging out of his passenger seat, caught by the door. A couple of teachers and I attracted his attention, then I dashed out into the traffic to quickly open his door so he could free the tie. I don't know if he was grateful or not, but his tie survived a major beating thanks to us.

The MJHS picket leader, one of the math teachers in Eric's department, was interviewed on our line by KING5 TV. Then, when she got to the rally, she was interviewed again by KOMO TV. The rally was fairly interesting. It was the first time since the strike vote that all the district's teachers had gotten together. Crowded together on a local farm, they sang protest songs and had speeches for the benefit of the press. The old protest favorite, "Solidarity Forever", reworked by yours truly to fit the situation, was sung and made the news. There were also loud calls for people to vote, and to help get people out to vote, as it is possible to unseat one of the current school board members in the primary.

I also continue to find it very telling that the district is making a point of saying that their "new" offer, which is just the old offer with some numbers shuffled, makes sure that no teacher will lose pay. The district said that no teacher would lose pay with their original offer. Are they saying that they were lying then? If so, then why should we trust them now?

Update - 5:40: A few more things. First off, I just watched the local news. KOMO TV had the interview with Eric's picket captain and fellow math teacher, basically a sound bite. They also showed the teachers singing my reworking of "Solidarity Forever", including some of my words and not just the chorus. The Marysville teachers were their second story, and they indicated that the negotiations are still going on, which means they've been at it for over four hours now. That's mildly promising. KING5 TV had the story much later in the newscast, and they also showed Eric's picket captain, and also showed Eric walking in front of his school with the other teachers. It was essentially the same report as the one we saw at noon, with the addition of the news that the teams were still in negotiation. I'm afraid KIRO TV took the prize, though. While they covered the story near the end of their newscast, they had two pieces on Marysville, one focusing on some Seniors at Marysville-Pilchuck High School discussing their difficulties in holding fund-raisers when they can't get at their class funds along with their worries about graduation, and the second story covered the rally (again, with the "Solidarity Forever" song, it makes a good sound bite). Then they went to the negotiations, and showed the mediator walking from room to room (as the negotiation teams apparently are still not meeting face-to-face, ARGH!) as well as discussing the problems with the district's offers. They didn't go into details, but they seemed fairly pro-teacher about the contract, and they covered more than just the conflict between the teachers and the district.

In other news, I chatted with the security guard at the Junior High today while walking the line. She admitted that watching teachers is completely pointless, but she's found that bored students are coming to the school and knocking over trash cans now. Last week, nothing, but she said the longer this goes on, the more likely serious vandalism will occur. Trash cans this week, maybe graphitti or fires next week.

The fact-finder clause in the law is completely useless to the teachers. Soon after the law was passed in 1975, teachers tried to use the fact finder to end strikes. It didn't work because negotiations stop as soon as the fact-finder is called in, and nothing can happen until the fact-finder finishes his job, which can take up to a month. It was a useless clause, despite the good intentions.

I'm off to monitor the news some more, in the hopes that good news will happen. Is it too much to dream that today's long session might result in some sort of tentative agreement?

"I will still make what I am making, but it will stay there until the rest of the state caught up with what I am making," said Deanna Whitton, a striking Marysville teacher. "If there were no raises in five or six years, that would be tough to swallow."