Outten & Golden: Empowering Employees in the Workplace

Posts Tagged ‘student’

Detroit teachers sue school district to fix crumbling schools and fire emergency manager

Tuesday, February 2nd, 2016

The Detroit Federation of Teachers joined with some parents Thursday to sue the school district over conditions in the schools and call for the dismissal of state-appointed Emergency Manager Darnell Earley.

“Asking a child to learn or a teacher to instruct with steam coming from their mouth due to the cold in the classroom, in vermin infested rooms, with ceiling tiles falling from above, with buckets to catch the rain water falling from above, or in buildings that are literally making them sick is more than what is legally or constitutionally tolerable,” the lawsuit says.

The complaint also alleges that Earley, who was appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder and has sweeping powers, has neglected his duties and made the district’s financial problems worse. Officials have said DPS is in danger of running out of cash in April or May.

The plaintiffs are asking a judge to remove Earley and restore local control to the school district. They also want the district to be ordered to fix the building problems, promptly investigate complaints and create a long-term capital plan.

Earlier in the week, a Detroit student explained why she supports her teachers:

Trying to silence teachers by threatening to take away their jobs is childish and unfair to my education. When you have lost these teachers, how will you replace them? Who wants to work in a school district where ceilings fall on student’s heads, and mushrooms grow in the hallways? I did not have an English teacher for the first
four months of school, and last year I did not have a French teacher the whole first semester. With a history of all these vacancies, how will firing 23 teachers help your case at all. […]

Legislators, the Emergency Manager and others have said that teachers are hindering our education by doing these sickouts, but the reality is that none of you live in Detroit, and none of you have children who go to a DPS school. None of you have to come to school every day and share books (if we even have books), or be in the middle of doing work and the lights cut off. None of you have to worry about your safety everyday of your life, or walk past mushrooms growing in the hallway. None of you have to skip lunch every day because the food is moldy, and the milk is old. None of you experience what we experience, and until you have, you have no right to speak on anything happening in our district. Our teachers are doing what is best for us, and my education is not being hindered any more than it was when I went a whole Semester without a French/English teacher.

When you’re talking about kids facing unsanitary conditions and hunger and being deprived of a chance at an education, you find the money to fix it. Just like you don’t poison a city’s water supply. Except if you’re Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder and his cadre of emergency managers, apparently.

This blog originally appeared in dailykos.com on January 28, 2016. Reprinted with permission.

Laura Clawson has been a Daily Kos contributing editor since December 2006 and Labor editor since 2011.

You Won’t Believe How Walmart Responded to This College Student. Actually, You Will

Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

dougfooteWalmart, the country’s largest private employer and huge wielder of political influence, is taking on their greatest challenge yet: A college junior writing an op-ed in her student newspaper.

Georgetown University student Erin Riordan wrote a piece for The Hoya, the school’s student-run newspaper, in support of the Large Retailer Accountability Act (LRAA), which would raise the minimum wage for big-box retail employees to $12.50 an hour.

To deal with this threat, Walmart dispatched Steven Restivo, a senior director of communications at Walmart, to write a responding op-ed.

Erin’s piece on July 24 pointed out the reasons that many of us want the LRAA to become law: to establish a living wage for notoriously underpaid retail workers in one of the most expensive cities in the world. She also points to Walmart’s enormous revenue and their previous promises to pay $13 an hour. Perhaps, most importantly, she points to the LRAA’s ability to lift Washington, D.C., families out of poverty.

The current minimum wage creates a cycle of poverty where even full-time workers struggle to make a living, then transferring the burden of paying for necessities to the taxpayer.

In his July 29 response, Restivo, who we’ll mention again is a senior director of communications at Walmart responding to a student op-ed in a college newspaper, says LRAA is bad policy because it doesn’t apply to all residents.

Workers at places like Starbucks, McDonald’s, Exxon Mobil, Giant, Applebee’s, Safeway, Nike, Banana Republic, Five Guys and the Apple Store and hundreds more businesses like them aren’t covered by the LRAA. The legislation does not create a level playing field and imposes arbitrary costs on only a handful of businesses in D.C…that’s bad public policy.

Restivo is referring in part to the section of the LRAA that states, “employees are not barred from entering into a written valid collective bargaining agreement waiving provisions of this act if such waiver is set forth in clear and unambiguous terms.”He and other Walmart spokespeople have said this is a “discriminatory” exemption for unionized retail stores, when in fact it’s simply a bargaining chip workers can use in a collective bargaining negotiation, keeping $12.50 as the wage floor.(Not that we’re surprised a Walmart spokesman doesn’t fully understand unions or the process of management negotiating with workers.)

In addition, Restivo claims the full-time average wage for a Walmart associate in Virginia is $12.39 an hour, and yet he says a $12.50 living wage in Washington, D.C.—a more expensive place to live—is an “arbitrary cost.”

Refuting Restivo point by point could be the basis of a much longer post. But the fact remains that Walmart is so desperate, so insecure about their reputation and so prone to bullying behavior that when a college student writes an op-ed in a campus newspaper in support of a policy Walmart doesn’t like, they just can’t resist the urge to launch their PR machine at her.

Don’t let bullying rule the day. Tell Mayor Gray to sign the LRAA and help lift District of Columbia families out of poverty.

This article originally appeared on AFL-CIO NOW on July 31, 2013.  Reprinted with permission. 

About the AuthorDoug Foote is the Social Media and Campaign Specialist at Working America. He joined Working America in 2011 after serving as New Media Director for the successful 2010 reelection campaign of Senator Patty Murray (D-WA).

 

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