Union: ‘Statewide job action’ possible if no pay raise

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 7, 2001

FERRIDAY, La. – If Louisiana lawmakers don’t raise teachers’ salaries to the Southern average and if teachers decide to strike, Ferriday teacher Cathy Smith said, &uot;I’ll lead the picket line.&uot;

&uot;Politicians promised to bring us up to the Southern average — that’s how they got into office,&uot;&160;said Smith, who teaches kindergarten. &uot;They broke those promises. But they seem to have money for everything else.&uot;

Smith said she would not participate if the strike was only parishwide. &uot;It needs to be statewide … to send a message,&uot; she said. And she may get the chance to lead a picket line — although few are using the word &uot;strike&uot; yet.

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There is a good chance that if lawmakers do not raise teacher salaries to the Southern average and include raises for support workers, both teacher unions will hold &uot;statewide job actions,&uot; say union officials.

But in interviews on Tuesday, officials of both the Louisiana Association of Educators and the Louisiana Federation of Teachers and School Employees refused to call such actions &uot;strikes.&uot;

&uot;I don’t like using that word,&uot;&160;said LAE President Carol Davis. &uot;We have all kinds of options, but I&160;don’t want to lay them out ahead of time. It depends on what the membership wants — but the mood is strong that they’re angry.&uot;

&uot;If there’s no progress during the special session, there could certainly be a job action statewide, and a strike is in the realm of possibility, but that’s the last bullet in our gun,&uot;&160;said spokesman Les Landon of the LFT.

In any case, the LFT has decided to delay any further job action until after Louisiana Educational Assessment Program retests conclude on March 21, Landon said. Union locals throughout the state — including, last Thursday and Friday, Concordia Parish — have already held sickouts to call for raises.

Neither D’Shay Rushing, Concordia Association of Educators president, nor JoAnn Gardner, president of the Concordia Federation of Teachers and School Employees, would comment on the possibility of a strike.

&uot;We need to give (lawmakers) a chance to do something&uot; regarding teacher raises in the special session, Gardner said. &uot;The next move is actually theirs.&uot;