CUTS HIT US EDUCATION –while workers battle for union rights

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Policy Matters Ohio has released a report showing the impact of the $1.8 billion cuts to local education budgets across Ohio, reports the Ohio Association of Public School Employees.

It quotes from the group’s press release: ‘Most districts are cutting courses, reducing staff or raising student fees

‘The state budget reduced school funding in Ohio by $1.8 billion when compared to the previous biennium.

‘A recent survey of Ohio school districts by Policy Matters Ohio found that two out of three districts have budget shortfalls and more than a quarter of districts expect to be in fiscal distress.

‘Of responding districts, 44 per cent said they plan to reduce expenditures on materials, supplies and equipment; 38 per cent said that they will allow class size to grow; 15 per cent reported plans to reduce course offerings (double the share last year) and 12 per cent plan to reduce instruction in the arts.

‘Almost 19 per cent said that they will raise fees for participation in athletics and other extracurricular activities.’

‘Schools across the state – poor, wealthy and in between – revealed alarming levels of fiscal distress,’ said Piet van Lier, education researcher and one of the report authors.

‘The cuts being discussed – to staffing levels, course offerings, arts and extracurriculars – will hurt Ohio students.’

The press statement continued: ‘School districts are being cautious about seeking local funding: 73 per cent of respondents had no plans for ballot issues through November 2012.

‘The survey revealed that rejection of a levy makes subsequent elections harder.

‘Education is labour intensive: in Ohio, 83 per cent of school funding supports payroll.

‘Almost a quarter of respondents (23 per cent) said they anticipate reducing teaching staff by 2.6 to 5 per cent.

‘The share of districts planning a reduction of between 5 and 7.5 per cent quadrupled between last year and this.

‘Respondents also reported that they have already reduced staff, through attrition or layoff, by 700 positions, more than twice as many as the 331 reductions reported for the last school year.

‘If this rate of reduction occurred in all Ohio districts, then up to 2,500 teaching jobs may already have been eliminated in Ohio schools in the current school year.’

‘Fewer teachers means larger classes, which often makes it harder to manage a class, provide high quality education, and give individualized attention,’ said Wendy Patton, senior project director and a report author.

Policy Matters Ohio further noted: ‘The strategies districts report used to manage the budget shortfalls can erode educational quality and exacerbate inequality of opportunity.

‘The report recommends that Ohio restore revenue to the state budget and reinvest in schools and children.

‘Recommended strategies include closing unnecessary tax loopholes, restoring income tax rates on the wealthiest Ohioans and on large corporations doing business in the state, and levying appropriate taxes on emerging economic activities, like internet sales or oil and gas production, so that they contribute their fair share to Ohio’s infrastructure.’

‘We need to restore investment in our children’s education if we want strong families and communities,’ Patton said.

• The UNITE HERE union has urged ‘Pomona College: Give workers a voice!’

On December 2, 2011, Pomona College, Claremont, California, fired Carmen, her mother Felipa, and her brother-in-law Rogelio after a meticulous investigation into their work authorisation documents.

UNITE HERE says: ‘Now, Carmen and the Pomona community are speaking out in a new video.

‘Pomona is a college, not a greedy corporation.

‘This was not an ICE raid. A federal agency did not prompt this investigation.

‘So why did Pomona check workers’ papers now?

‘The firings come in the midst of workers’ efforts to form a union – an effort Pomona College has opposed.

‘Take action and send an email to Paul Efron, Chair of the Pomona Board of Trustees and Goldman Sachs Advisory Director.

‘Your name will be added to a petition calling on the college to allow the dining hall workers to choose to unionise without intimidation from the college.’

Pomona College promotes itself as a liberal college.

Shocked by the sackings, students, faculty and alumni are accusing the administration and the board of directors of betraying the college’s ideals.

Hundreds of alumni have pledged not to donate money to Pomona.

Students have staged repeated protests, some of which are featured in the new three-minute video, along with an interview with Congresswoman Judy Chu.

Chu, who represents East Los Angeles and parts of the Inland Empire, says in the video: ‘They were workers who put their sweat, blood and tears into the college, and they desire better.’

In the three-minute video, Carmen, an 11-year Pomona College dining hall office worker, tells how she was fired late last year after the college’s Board of Trustees demanded that she and her co-workers reproduce their papers to work in the US.

One man involved in the decision to investigate and fire the workers is Paul Efron, Pomona College’s board chairman and advisory director at Goldman Sachs. Efron was a Goldman partner for years.

The National Labour Relations Board has levelled charges against the College for violating federal labour law.

• Workers from the Pine Inn and Tally-Ho Inn in Carmel, California, walked off the job last Wednesday, February 8th, in a two-day strike.

Their union UNITE HERE said: ‘As corporate profits soar and the economy rebounds for the rich, workers are striking in protest of management’s demand to eliminate longtime employer coverage of family health insurance.

‘The 28 Workers are asking to maintain health care coverage for their 29 children and 13 spouses. Pine Inn and Tally-Ho Inn workers, members of UNITE HERE Local 483, have been without a contract since January 1st, 2011.

‘The workers are housekeeping, bell, front desk, and maintenance employees. Currently, Pine inn housekeepers make less than $25,000 a year in wages.

‘The hotels’ wealthy owner, Richard Gunner of Fresno, has not said he cannot afford to pay for family healthcare coverage, only that he does not want to.

‘Gunner also owns the Santa Barbara Inn, Gunner Ranch vineyard in Fresno, as well as real estate and a number of development projects in the Santa Barbara and Fresno areas.’

‘This is another case of the rich squeezing workers and our families,’ said Jose Vigil, a Pine Inn houseman of three years.

The workers are also protesting over alleged violations of workers’ rights by management.

Last week, the National Labour Relations Board (NLRB) Office of the General Counsel stated that it did ‘not condone the Employer’s conduct’ in briefly surveilling and writing down the names of participants at a union rally in November.

The Office put Pine Inn on notice that any further violations of workers’ rights during the next six months would lead to formal proceedings against it.

The last time the hotel workers’ union went on strike was in 1982. That strike at 22 area hotels and restaurants lasted 17 days.

Gunner’s Pine Inn and Tally-Ho Inn are located at Ocean Avenue and Monte Verde Street in Carmel. The Pine Inn was the first hotel built in the city and boasts having ‘the most elegant rooms in Carmel.’

Founded in 1937, UNITE HERE Local 483 represents 1,200 Monterey Bay area hospitality workers at two dozen hotels, restaurants, cafeterias, and golf courses.