Philadelphia Teachers in Sharp Contract Struggle

September 13, 2004

On September 7, the first day of school, Philadelphia teachers and other school employees organized informational pickets at the start of the school day.

The 20,000 members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers (PFT) are in a sharp contract struggle with the School District and the School Reform Commission.

The School Reform Commission, which has taken over management of Philadelphia's schools under a special state law, is demanding a series of outrageous cutbacks in the teachers' new contract. These cuts include:

- drastic cuts in health care coverage;

- elimination of the right of the teachers union (Philadelphia Federation of Teachers) to negotiate future health plan benefits;

- no guarantees for negotiated pay raises and pay cuts for several job classifications as well as cuts in overtime and compensatory pay;

- elimination of union seniority and granting school principals unlimited, arbitrary power to cut staff, control transfers, etc.;

- elimination of prep periods and increases in the length of the working day.

Many of these contract provisions were only gained by the teachers after a 7-day strike in 2000.

The School Reform Commission is trying to ram these cuts down teachers' throats by relying on Act 46, a special Pennsylvania law, which gives the state the power to take over any school district with a deficit and in turn prohibit employees from striking.

Philadelphia's teachers, however, have not been intimidated. They are organizing rallies, meetings, marches, informational pickets and other actions to unite their ranks, inform public opinion about the justness of their demands and prepare for whatever struggles are necessary to protect their jobs, wages and working conditions. The teachers are winning strong support from parents, students and concerned people throughout the city.