Houston school workers demand fair pay

HOUSTON — On May 10 at least 30 labor supporters gathered outside the School District’s administration building here to support the teachers union’s demand for higher salaries for education workers.

Local 6315 of the American Federation of Teachers, which represents education workers who are not teachers, wants the Houston School District to conduct a survey to compare salaries its members earn with salaries of workers in comparable positions around the country. The union wants both the pay and incentive system to be restructured, because under the present set-up, educational support workers have no seniority system.

Richard Shaw, secretary-treasurer of the Harris County AFL-CIO, was present and led the participants in chants of “What do we want? Fair wages! When do we want it? Right now!” Also present Gerry Birnberg, chairman of the Harris County Democratic Party and Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers.

The crowd was ethnically diverse and included women and men. Unions represented included the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the Sheet Metal Workers and the United Auto Workers.

The demands of the education workers have been presented to school Superintendent Abe Saavedra. It has been reported that Saavedra was hired with a contract that included a starting base salary of $270,000, a $60,000 bonus if student performance improves, a $1,200 monthly cash car allowance and a $400 monthly cash allowance for cell phones. His wages and benefits, therefore, total $384,200 per year.

A truck driver working for the school district told this reporter that he had recently been laid off and was trying to get his job back. Asked if he is a union member, he said, “Yes. That’s the only place I get any support. If I wasn’t with the union, I’d just be out there by myself.”

A union organizer said the reason for the picket line was to improve the wages of all educational support personnel. She pointed out that wages for these workers in Houston have lagged behind the rest of the nation.

One union member said that when wages for some workers are raised, all working people benefit. He noted, however, that when things are done to benefit the wealthy, working people suffer.

phill2 @houston.rr.com