|
|
|
MailTribune.com
  • Local union leaders join striking Medford teachers in weekend rally

    Teachers, union leaders and other supporters gather in Medford's Hawthorne Park as strike drags on
  • After more than a week of "standing solid" along picket lines outside their schools, teachers received a pat on the back from community members and union leaders at a rally Saturday afternoon in soggy Hawthorne Park.
    • email print
  • After more than a week of "standing solid" along picket lines outside their schools, teachers received a pat on the back from community members and union leaders at a rally Saturday afternoon in soggy Hawthorne Park.
    "Teachers rock, and that's why we're here today," said Debbie Herzog, a retired teacher and member of the Medford Teachers Solidarity Committee, which organized the event.
    "My teachers are not and never have been quitters," said Ariel Statchwick, a graduate of North Medford High School.
    About 600 people, including nearly 300 teachers, checked in with the Medford Education Association at the rally. Various labor unions were represented, including the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, the American Postal Workers Union, the National Association of Letter Carriers, Service Employees International Union, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union and the Oregon Nurses Association, to name a few.
    After seeing a similar campaign in Portland, Wes Brain of Southern Oregon Jobs with Justice helped form the local solidarity committee. The group met for the first time last week.
    "A number of people kept saying, 'What can we do?' " Brain said. "It came out of our meeting to follow the footsteps of Portland. We're here for the same cause: to show community support for the teachers."
    At the rally, Alice DiMicele, Phil Newton and Pete Herzog performed, and many community residents spoke. Some applauded the teachers for their perseverance, and others voiced their frustrations over the stalled negotiations.
    Two consecutive days of bargaining last week ended without a settlement. Bargaining teams from the Medford School District and teachers union are scheduled to meet with two state mediators Tuesday for a full day of negotiations, said MEA officials.
    Tuesday will be the 13th day Medford teachers have been on strike.
    "Today not Tuesday," chanted Alicia O'Quinn, a concerned parent of third- and fifth-grade students at Griffin Creek Elementary.
    "This waiting till Tuesday thing is not OK," O'Quinn said later. "We want to see this settled. We want to see our kids back in the classroom with the teachers they know and trust."
    Tony Crawford, a middle-school geography teacher and vice president of the Oregon Education Association, and his wife drove from Canby to Medford early Saturday to attend the rally.
    "We want to show the teachers of Medford that other communities are right there with them," Crawford said.
    Teachers from across the state have sent cards, signs and checks of support, he added.
    When teachers left their classrooms Wednesday, Feb. 5, they were issued their final paycheck. Teachers on strike lose half a percent of their annual salary for each day they are on strike. On Friday, teachers had lost about 3.5 percent of their annual salary, said Lisa North, an instructional coach at local elementary schools.
    The association pays teachers on strike $120 a day and has a welfare account set up to help teachers with critical monetary needs. Other teachers unions, as well as community residents and businesses, have made donations to this account, North said.
    "We have some people who are the sole breadwinner, so this hits them hard, and there's some families where both spouses are Medford teachers, so they are losing both of their incomes," she said. "Teachers with lots of children are spread thinner than those with one kid, but across the board, it's a big hit for every person."
    Maria Vaughan, a grandmother, typically volunteers one morning every week at Kennedy Elementary. She said her role is to help take the load off teachers.
    "There is no downtime in kindergarten these days," she said.
    Vaughan has gone on strike with the teachers and, according to the sign that hung around her neck, "will not cross the picket line." Her home has been the "bio headquarters" — or bathroom stop — for teachers picketing outside Kennedy and Abraham Lincoln elementary schools.
    "They are wonderful teachers, every one of them," she said, adding that she thinks the mediation should not be held in front of the media.
    Kurt Katzmar, a pastor of Medford Congregational United Church of Christ, was among the many community people who spoke.
    "It's part of our faith," he said.
    Amanda Wynne, mother to Eli Wynne, a first-grader at Washington Elementary, sang the praises of her son's kindergarten and first-grade teachers.
    "I home-schooled my stepdaughter in middle school for six months, so I definitely appreciate what they do," she said.
    On Monday, President's Day, teachers will form "roving" picket lines as they drive routes throughout the school district, "taking their message to Medford streets," North said.
    Reach education reporter Teresa Thomas at 541-776-4497 or by email at tthomas@mailtribune.com. Follow her at www.twitter.com/teresathomas_mt.
Reader Reaction

      calendar