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The Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) announced Wednesday that the teachers' union had voted in favor of going on strike to demand higher salaries in order to retain teachers. (Photo: @ReporterAshley/Twitter)

As Teachers Union Approves Strike, Denver Superintendent Wants to Turn Furloughed Federal Workers Into Scabs

Ahead of a union vote on Tuesday, the newly-elected school official reached out to federal employees who haven't been paid in weeks, asking them to cross the picket line

Julia Conley

For seeking to exploit a situation in which hundreds of thousands of public employees nationwide are going without paychecks as the Trump shutdown enters its second month, the superintendent of Denver's public schools is under fire for floating the idea that those suffering workers could be used as replacements for city teachers who voted Tuesday to approve a district-wide strike.

"Teachers fighting for better pay are now facing the possibility of their jobs being temporarily filled—and their union's efforts undermined—by federal employees who are themselves getting screwed out of work by an uncaring administration."
—Rafi Schwartz, Splinter News
Ahead of the vote, held by the city's 5,600-strong teachers union, Denver Public Schools (DPS) Superintendent Susana Cordova told the local press that she was preparing to offer furloughed federal workers substitute teaching jobs for the duration of a potential strike.

"We've got a whole group of federal employees who've been furloughed who are not working or not getting paid," Cordova told NBC affiliate KUSA. "We have attended some of the work events where folks who are looking to pick up extra cash can come substitute with us."

Cordova was planning to offer twice the daily substitute teaching wage to public employees, hundreds of whom have turned to the crowd-funding website to raise money for rent and mortgage payments, groceries, and other necessities as President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have refused to take action to end the shutdown.

As local SEIU president Ron Ruggiero wrote on Twitter, Cordova was preparing for a blatant "union-busting" operation in order to weaken the teachers' momentum.

"Teachers fighting for better pay are now facing the possibility of their jobs being temporarily filled—and their union's efforts undermined—by federal employees who are themselves getting screwed out of work by an uncaring administration seemingly content to let this particular ouroboros eat its own ass for the immediate future," wrote Rafi Schwartz at Splinter News.

After 93 percent of the Denver Classroom Teachers Association (DCTA) voted to move forward with the strike Tuesday, Cordova said she planned to ask Democratic Gov. Jared Polis to intervene, ordering teachers to report to work as they continue negotiations.

As of now, the DCTA is planning to begin the strike as soon as next Monday. The strike would be the first for the school district in nearly 25 years.

The DCTA voted to strike largely due to a pay incentive system which rewards teachers for working in certain schools and subject areas—but which the union says keeps most base salaries low. The compensation system has left the district with a high teacher turnover rate, with 31 percent of Denver teachers working in the schools for three years or less.

"The revolving door is a crisis for kids and families who count on DPS to consistently provide a caring, qualified, and experienced teaching staff at every school," the union said in a statement following the vote.

Several union members, holding a sign that read "Teacher Retention Equals Students First," became visibly emotional as the vote to strike was announced.

"They're striking for better pay. They're striking for our profession. And they're striking for Denver students," said Rob Gould, who led the union's negotiations, of the city's teachers.

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