State Workers Vote To Strike Alongside Teachers If They Don’t Get Raises
OKLAHOMA CITY - The planned statewide teacher strike planned for next month has now grown significantly, as thousands of state employees decided to officially join the cause. Oklahoma Public Employee Association board members believe there is strength in numbers.
Thousands of state employees say they are ready to strike alongside teachers starting April 2 if legislators do not meet their demands. “OPEA will urge its members to take whatever steps deemed necessary to force legislative action,” OPEA president Carrie Croy announced in a proclamation.
State employees are fed up. OPEA's board has directed the development of an action plan that could include state employee walkouts. The board will meet again next week to approve an action plan for April 2nd and beyond if necessary. We stand with educators for a pay raise for all pic.twitter.com/bFeyrn0COT— Oklahoma Public Employees Association (@OklaPEA) March 10, 2018
After an emotional discussion Saturday morning, OPEA board members voted to stand in solidarity with public school teachers who are demanding more. They say they, too, are tired of waiting for what they deserve. “Sadly in years past we’ve been pitted against each other,” says OPEA president emeritus Jess Callahan. “We’re all fighting for the same pot of money, but now we’ve decided as a group that it’s better if we all come to the table together because we’re all in the same boat.”
The teacher's union proposal released Thursday includes raises not only for the educators, but also for state employees, who have not seen an across-the-board raise in ten years. DOC worker and OPEA board member Mike Rogers says, “We’ve lost some very experienced people over the last two or three years that I thought would never leave. That’s what makes it different. That feeling is there that we have no more rope that can be extended.”
The state employees are asking for a $2,500 pay increase per state employee for each of the next three years, and they want lawmakers to reverse recent cuts to state agencies.
OPEA leadership is still working out what the walkout would look like, but they say the impact will be felt. They are ready to make a strike last as long as necessary. Rogers says, “I don’t think anybody went into teaching or state employment thinking they were going to make a six figure job and take European vacations twice a year. We just want to be treated with some respect and be equally compensated.”
The state workers say they do not care how the legislature funds their proposal. They just want lawmakers to show them the money.