Support teachers

FI-EditorialAs contract negotiations between the town’s teachers union and the Board of Education remain at an impasse, making it a very real possibility things will be decided by an outside arbitrator, it’s important to show this town stands with its teachers.

Of course first we must make sure not to overdramatize. This is not an all-out labor war, and both the teachers and the board have their attention squarely where it should be … on Greenwich’s students. But there are real issues that demand attention. We must not take for granted all that Greenwich’s public school teachers do both inside and outside the classroom. Besides parents, no one has a more direct role in student achievement, and their hard work should be rewarded with a fair contract that attracts and retains the best.

What exactly is causing negotiations to stall is unknown. Negotiations could well begin anew; both sides are keeping quiet on specifics. But it’s clear that what is being offered by the Board of Education’s Negotiations Committee, and by extension the town, is not acceptable to the Greenwich Education Association (GEA).

GEA head Carol Sutton brought the dispute straight to the public at last week’s board meeting, urging Greenwich residents to stand with teachers. There was no invective hurled nor cheap shots taken and no one from the board turned up the rhetoric. Ms. Sutton was just asking for a fair deal for teachers when unions are asked to give back in almost every new contract, particularly when it comes to health care costs.

Don’t ignore how much teachers are putting into this town, a town that many of them can’t afford to live in. The number of town employees who can actually live in Greenwich is not new, unfortunately, but it hits teachers particularly hard, leading to longer commutes and more time away from their families. To help kids achieve, we ask teachers come in early and stay late and they do it because they are dedicated.

The truth is the town can easily afford to be reasonable, even generous, when it comes to supporting the kind of labor force it demands. We demand the best — why aren’t we willing to pay for it?

This past week was Labor Day. How many even care anymore that this is a holiday dedicated to the labor force that built this country and allowed it to thrive. Far too often unions are used as targets for cheap political points, as organized labor is held up as some kind of evil bogeyman hurting taxpayers and business owners. We will see it again in the 2014 races, especially with Connecticut’s governorship up for grabs.

The concerted political effort against labor unions that has been virtually unchecked for more than 30 years is a major reason this country is seeing the poor struggle more than ever while the middle class disappears and the tiny percentage known as the ultra rich continues to just get wealthier. This is not happening in isolation here in Greenwich.

We need to show our teachers we have their backs. The Board of Education is accountable to Greenwich residents and it is in everyone’s interests to have a fair deal reached without arbitration so Greenwich is in control of its own fate.

Contact the board and let them know that teachers deserve support. They deserve salaries allowing them to live a middle class life and health care coverage and benefits that provide incentive for them to come here. Make your voice heard and support public education and our teachers.

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