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The partial shutdown is escalating into a politically driven game of chicken and organized labor has unsurprisingly decided to get involved. One of their main targets is Mitch McConnell who has been trying to stay on the sidelines in recent weeks. According to POLITICO, hundreds of union members, including many furloughed government workers, gathered less than one block from the White House today to voice frustration over the government shutdown.
But their target wasn’t President Donald Trump. Instead, union leaders trained their fire on someone who’s stayed out of the spotlight: Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.
“It’s not nearly as cold as Mitch ‘the Trump-puppet’ McConnell!” shouted Paul Shearon, president of the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers, referencing the freezing Washington weather.
Unions leaders sought to re-frame what had been portrayed as a debate between Trump and Democratic leaders Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. Instead, they sought to give McConnell his share of the blame. In speeches in front of the AFL-CIO headquarters, they mostly avoided reciting Trump’s name and instead mentioned McConnell as frequently as possible.
“There are two people who can who can stop it right now,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers. “One lives down the block from us, and the other is Mitch McConnell.”
Angry federal workers, many on track to miss their first paychecks this week, toted signs and shouted chants condemning Republicans. A union officer for the U.S. Forest Service carried a sign featuring Smokey the Bear that read: “Only you can prevent forest fires — seriously, I’ve been furloughed,” while a 40-year veteran of an IRS outpost in Baltimore grumbled that nearly his entire office had been sent home.
“Whole towns are suffering in rural areas” as a result of lost pay, said Chris Berry, the Forest Service union officer.
Los Angeles teachers could lose — rather than gain — money for their classrooms by going on strike this week, according to a report from Moody’s Investor Services.
Teachers might strike as soon as tomorrow, demanding pay raises, smaller class sizes, and more support staff. But doing so could disrupt the district’s place in California’s education-funding model, which doles out money proportional to the number of students. The result: teachers could get an unintended funding cut if the district doesn’t agree to concessions.
According to the report, teacher absences are likely to drive down student attendance in the Los Angeles Unified School District (when teachers don’t show up, neither do students). Because California uses average attendance to determine how many students attend each district — and therefore how much money they need — Los Angeles likely will receive less next year.
“The district is likely to lose some state revenues based upon lower [average daily attendance] and will also have to pay substitute teachers,” the report says. “The district ended fiscal 2018 with close to $2.4 billion in available net cash in its general fund, and the strike is unlikely to result in liquidity difficulties. It will, however, divert resources from classroom purposes.”
A legal dispute over whether teachers gave the district enough notice could push the strike back to Monday, although union leaders are confident it happen one way or another.
“There will be a strike,” American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten said Tuesday. “I think a strike is imminent now.”
The United Teachers Los Angeles said today that the teachers union would push back its strike date to Monday.
The union’s more than 30,000 members had been poised to walk out on Thursday. Union leaders said the decision was made because of uncertainty over how a legal dispute concerning whether the union gave enough notice to strike to the district would be resolved.
The Los Angeles district is the nation’s second largest, with 80 percent of students qualifying for free or reduced lunch.
“Although we believe we would ultimately prevail in court, for our members, our students, parents, and the community, absent an agreement we will plan to strike on Monday,” said Alex Caputo-Pearl, the union president, in a statement.
The two sides were expected back at the bargaining table later today. The union and district leaders have clashed over issues such as teacher pay and funds to reduce classroom sizes.