For those who claim teacher unions don’t have any power in Texas…

Austin union preserves support employee pay, South Texas district wins on in-person PD, and Dallas superintendent tells the nation he respects the power of the local union

Our local union for Austin ISD—Education Austin—rallied its members to give hundreds of public comments (via phone in the world of virtual meetings) to the district’s School Board last Thursday night to ensure it would delay the start of the school year until September 8. That delay was approved.

However, just as important was a secondary goal—to protect the support staff employees who would be facing no income, paychecks they were counting on with the start of the new school year. 

As Education Austin noted in its all-hands-on-deck communication before the meeting: “The district is saying they don’t want to pay many of our classified employees until the school year begins. That means bus drivers, bus monitors, security guards, teaching assistants, food service workers, ISS monitors, and others won’t get paid until the end of September. This is unacceptable. Most of these workers are scheduled to report to work next week and won’t find out until Thursday night or Friday morning that they shouldn’t report and will lose three weeks of pay.  Meanwhile, administrators at the top continue to rake in high salaries and still have not developed a reopening plan. We need you to send emails to board members today and speak at the board meeting on Thursday. We need to let them know that while we are happy to delay the start of the school year, our classified employees must be paid. There is money in the fund balance to pay these employees.”

The union was successful in getting the board to allocate the money needed to keep the paychecks flowing to support staff—many of whom would have been financially devastated from lost income. Education Austin demonstrated that organizing collective action and a dogged pursuit to protect the entire school team can result in meaningful victories for its members.

Ed Austin continues to push for a comprehensive reopening plan, something the district lacks as it leaves a significant amount of discretion to principals. Members—through the “Where’s the Plan” letter campaign—are urging School Board members to insist on a plan before reopening.

This week our Associate Membership Program in South Texas ISD protested mandatory on-site professional development. After more than 500 members emailed the school board and our state president weighed in on the issue, the district got the message and gave teachers the option of doing remote for the sessions. 

‘They’re very organized,’ he said. ‘If they get mad and you just diss them, then they can make a lot of noise. They can make your life miserable.’”

— Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa

Meanwhile, in Dallas ISD, local union Alliance AFT is rallying members for a car-caravan protest at Thursday’s School Board meeting. The union was successful in getting the district to backtrack on requiring all teachers to do their remote instruction on campus, but Alliance AFT is still insisting that the district implement its allowed eight weeks of remote-only instruction when school starts on September 8.

In its extensive profile of Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, the Wall Street Journal reported:

“Dr. Hinojosa said that teachers have a valid concern about contracting the virus in classrooms and that the district is relying on medical experts to advise it as it makes reopening decisions. “While Texas teachers unions don’t have the legal right to strike, he said they can make life rough, so he works with them. ‘They’re very organized,’ he said. ‘If they get mad and you just diss them, then they can make a lot of noise. They can make your life miserable.’”