Activists call for teacher strike, union leader says it won't happen
DETROIT (WJBK) - The battle is heating up in Detroit public schools as teachers are at risk of losing their paychecks in less than 30 days. As the union meets to figure out the next move, some activists are calling for a strike.
The Detroit Federation of Teachers (DFT) union held a membership meeting inside the Masonic Temple to inform everyone of what is going on. Before the meeting started, however, leaders told FOX 2 a strike is off the table.
Former DFT president Steve Conn says he is rallying for a teacher strike if lawmakers cannot reach a deal in providing hundreds of millions of dollars in funding before the school district runs out of money on April 8. A group of protesters was rallying outside of the Temple on Thursday. However, the current president of DFT said that Conn doesn't speak for the union.
"Steve Conn is no longer the President of the Detroit Federation of Teachers, and our members are very concerned that he's going around speaking for us," Ivy Bailey said.
In response, Conn said teachers will fight back, regardless of what Bailey said.
"Ivy Bailey thinks she is a dictator, but she's not. The teachers are going to stand up. They've got to stand up. It's going to take a strike for us to get paid, evidently. Teachers are prepared to do what it takes to defend public education in Detroit which is the only future our city has," Conn said.
But Bailey was adamant that a strike isn't going to happen. She also reminded everyone that schools should be more about the students.
"It's not going to be a strike. After April the 8th, school is closed, we're not there anyway. But we're going to take action and put pressure on lansing to do what is right for our children. This is about the children. Everybody forgets about the children in this equation," Bailey said.
Newly appointed transitonal manager for DPS, Judge Steven Rhodes, says he cannot ask teachers work if there is no money to pay them, and he's pushing for lawmakers to get a deal done. They have six legislative days to figure it out. He said he "cannot, in good conscience, ask these teachers to work after April 8th".
Bailey said she thinks Rhodes is working with the teachers, not against them.
"At this point, I'm opimistically cautious with anyone who comes in here to work with us but I have a good feeling about him. He has been transparent with us. He's been fighting on our side but he's been trying to do what's best for children also," she said.
Conn says he has at least half of Detroit's teaching staff in his corner, and promises there will be a vote.