Over the past year, we've seen that no place in the country is safe from an elite agenda that seeks to "balance" budgets by throwing teachers, firefighters and police under the bus at the same time as they pass tax cuts for the wealthiest. But just as important, we've seen ordinary people organize everywhere to fight back in places nobody would expect... including Ogden, Utah.
[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Teachers and allies rally in Ogden's Liberty Park. "]
The Ogden Board of Education spent the last year trying to sharply cut teacher pay and benefits, but the Ogden Education Association blocked them at the negotiating table. Instead of continuing the negotiations in good faith, the Board of Education unilaterally sent each teacher a contract, demanding that each teacher sign their own individual contract by Wednesday or lose their jobs. In other words, the Ogden Board is trying to end collective bargaining in the district by fiat.
Instead of quietly acceding to the Board's demands, Ogden teachers rallied together and reached out to allies in the community, gathering around one thousand supporters
yesterday at Ogden's Liberty Park, including students, fellow union members, and people who remembered the great teachers they had growing up.
Frustrated by an anti-teacher attitude by the Ogden Board, some teachers are already heading to jobs in neighboring districts where they feel respected.
But it wasn’t enough to keep math teacher Rachel Lee at Mount Ogden Junior High. In May, as contract negotiations unraveled, she applied for and got a job in neighboring Weber School District. She wanted to be able to pay her bills, she said, and was frustrated by the turmoil between the OEA and district leaders.
"I feel like we’re disposable to them. They don’t care about collaborating," she said in an interview at Thursday’s rally. "I hope they can understand what they’re doing to teachers is not good for students."
And students showed up for their teachers at Thursday's rally as well.
Fourteen-year-old Kyle Speckman worries he could lose some of his favorite teachers at Highland Junior High because of the contract dispute. He wore red to Thursday’s protest to show solidarity with teachers, and raised a hand-written sign that read, "Listen to my teachers, respect my teachers, so they will still be there for me."