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Arizona Educators Walk Out In Largest Teacher Strike In State History
Phoenix police estimate that more than 50,000 people participated in the #RedForEd event at the Arizona Capitol.
KJZZ’s Jimmy Jenkins reported there were tons of water bottles, sunscreen and portable waiting for crowds that are expected at the Capitol. There also were labor unions, such as the AFL-CIO.
“They tell me they're here in solidarity,” Jenkins said. “I've talked with food workers, communications workers, carpenters, electricians, and their message is don't forget the support staff. They say that janitors, lunch ladies and lunch men, bus drivers these union members say that these people also need a living wage and they're urging people to not forget them as everyone focuses on the teacher's wages.”
Jenkins noted that staffers are not being paid today because they are hourly workers.
“ And as we've covered these events you do see a lot of young people and you know they've never taken part in events like this before. Some of that is because it's like their you know their mother or their father who's involved in education.”
Paul Castañeda from the Communications Workers of America said it was a good teaching moment.
“This is a perfect opportunity to really teach the millennials the younger kids those in high school really what labor is about,” he said. “And it's coming out and supporting each other helping everybody raise wages across the board for all workers not just union workers but non-union workers.”
The march began at 10 a.m. this morning as teachers, staffers and supporters began walking from Talking Stick Arena to the state Capitol. Many dressed in red and rode the light rail to the protest.
KJZZ’s Casey Kuhn said many protesters she spoke to Wednesday were tearful.
“They've all said that this is not something they want to do but it's something they have to do for their students,” Kuhn said, adding that she estimated several thousand people in the crowd. “They want to be there for those students but they feel like they have to walk out.”
She characterized the mood.
“Everyone has signs, everyone's got their mic, there's megaphones, there's chanting. It's definitely some it's excitement.”
She spoke to one teacher from Levine whose school is open today. He said he was conflicted conflicted. Another teacher said that she knew some staffers were volunteering to go to school today to deliver lunches.
Dale said many expressed hope for the future.
“At this point hoping that they can get their goals met here from the governor,” Dale said. “A lot of the organizers (said) that schools are planning to stay closed for the duration of this walkout. How long that will be remains to be seen.
“A lot of teachers organizers are hoping the legislators will finally do something or Governor will come up with a plan that will end this.”
KJZZ’s Marianna Dale at the Tempe YMCA checked with its child care program. She said parents have been a little flustered this morning change from their normal routines
Parent Theresa Gaines, who also is a social worker, and she said she was grateful for the service for her son.
“I don't think that what the teachers are asking for is out of reach or out of range. They are the educators for our children,” Gaines said.
Dale said parents were thankful they had a safe place for their children to go when schools are closed.
“It's nice the Y is able to provide a safe place for them to come,” Dale said. “If parents are in that position where they don't have anywhere else to take their kids this is a good option there are lots of others we know.
“I didn't talk to any parents that said that they didn't support the strike. Everyone here said they understood where the teachers were coming from. That they didn't get paid enough that they knew that better pay teachers would mean better education for their kids. But that doesn't mean that they weren't a little bit frustrated by what was happening and how this was inconveniencing them.”
Children were playing on the playground, swimming in the pool and eating string cheese and oranges. Most of the children were young and didn’t understand the strike.
“So for them it's just a chance for them to play with their friends all day,” Dale said.
The YMCA has said it is committed to offering child care for as long as the strike lasts. But parents who took the day off to watch their children may have to make other arrangements.
Many of those teachers have gathered in downtown Phoenix a Chase Field to begin their march to the state Capitol at 7300 W. Washington, where Jimmy Jenkins is standing by.
“We've got some media here that are getting ready for the event later today as well as teachers that are setting up. Not seeing lawmakers yet but a lot of people out here getting ready for what's expected to be a big day,” Jenkins reported.
“And I've also spoken with some union members that are here in solidarity as well. I spoke to members of the Communication Workers of America. There's about 1,700 members in their local chapter and they say that they're here in solidarity. These are phone company workers from all over the Valley.”
Paul Castaneda of the Communication Workers of America, told KJZZ’s Jimmy Jenkins ahead of today’s protest at the state Capitol that it’s a rare opportunity.
“This is really a perfect opportunity to really teach the millennials, the younger kids, those in high school really what labor is about. And it’s coming out and supporting each other, helping everybody raise wages across the board for all workers not just union workers but even non union workers.”
Across town at the YMCA in Tempe, KJZZ’s Mariana Dale spoke to its executive director.
The YMCA is one of dozens of local organizations that stepped up to offer free or low cost child care in the wake of school closures and Garrett Brolsma is a director here in Tempe.
"This is really what we do. Every time the school is how is we we provide child care whenever there is a need of childcare. The Y provides and this just happens to be a different type of day."
The Boys and Girls Club, local churches, the Girl Scouts the Science Center. Those are some of the other organizations that have also opened their doors, said KJZZ’s Mariana Dale.
Parent Ben Vasquez dropped of his son at the Tempe YMCA because he had to work today.
He said it's a little stressful, but he thinks teachers do deserve more money.
Nelissa Henry dropped off her son a little after 7 a.m. Though she supports teachers, she has mixed feelings about the strike.
“They deserve to get more pay especially for what they do and what their responsibility is. It’s the future. It’s our future. I don’t think it should have happened this way, it’s very inconvenient.”
Education organizers haven’t said how long the strike will last. Many schools plan to be closed through Friday.
The Tempe YMCA location is staffed to care for 120 kids and offer a sliding scale. They also said they wouldn't turn anyone away.
Tens of thousands of teachers in Arizona are walking out of classrooms in the largest teacher strike in state history. The strike comes after similar efforts in West Virginia and Oklahoma.
Teachers and organizers are demanding higher pay, plus no new tax cuts until education funding is restored.
More public school dollars have been slashed here since the Great Recession than any other state — and average Arizona teacher pay is among the lowest in the country.
School districts statewide have closed today and are planning to close Friday in expectation of another rally.
Strike organizers have rejected a proposal from the Gov. Doug Ducey of a 20 percent pay raise, saying the plan is not sustainable.