The Democratic Party and the labor movement have a long and common history of fighting for the rights and interest of the working people. Our mission is one and the same. Our agenda is social and economic justice and fairness. An injury to one is an injury to all.
In view of this, we hereby strongly support the actions of the teachers, paraprofessionals and support staff of the local American Federation of Teachers in both districts. For too long they have been taken for granted and mistreated by the government. Enough is enough. Education has not been given the appropriate attention or priority commensurate to the high level of lip service given to its importance. What’s good for the teachers is good for the students.
There is a dire shortage of teachers in the territory. We cannot attract nor recruit new teachers with the abysmally low and non-competitive salary scales that the professionals have been forced to deal with for years. Management policy of doing more with less is tantamount to doing more work for less pay. The union’s demands are reasonable in light of the recent multi-million dollars settlement and increase in Government revenues. The educators’ actions are justified especially when other gov’t employees are currently receiving salary raises. We must remind the gov’t that the prices in the supermarkets and at the gas stations etc. are at the same level for all of us. It is not a good policy to give increases to top level gov’t officials, but unwilling to do so for union employees.
We are proud of the AFT union and we are glad that they have taken the lead to push back. This is our legacy and this is our tradition. We fight for what’s just and fair. Because of the benign neglect on the part of the gov’t in dealing with the employees’ contracts and the disrespect for the profession, they have resurrected or have woken up a sleeping giant.
In light of the above, we call on the administration to address the concerns of the unions and negotiate in good faith to resolve this issue.
Cecil R. Benjamin, State Chair of the Democratic Party of the Virgin Islands