Monday, August 01, 2011

APALA Declares Support for PGCPS International Teachers

August 1, 2011


Heather Laverty
Vice President of Communications
Phone: 269-598-2235

Jon Melegrito
Phone: 202-361-0296

APALA Declares Support for Prince George’s County Public School Teachers
WASHINGTON, DC- Delegates to the 11th Biennial Convention of the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance (APALA) unanimously passed a resolution urging the U.S. Dept. of Labor (DOL) to “reconsider making the debarment ruling against the Prince George’s County Public Schools (PGCPS) prospective, instead of retroactive, so it will not affect the teachers who are currently in this country.” The resolution also called for “an immediate remedy that is fair and just to these diligent and dedicated teachers.” The more than 300 Asian Pacific activists, representing major labor unions in the country, further pledged to study ongoing trends and reported abuses by placement agencies in the recruitment of international teachers.

Katrina Dizon, President of the DC Chapter of APALA, who introduced the resolution at the convention, said: “Although we realize that the DOL is upholding the law by debarring PGCPS, we strongly believe that a punishment victimizing the very people it’s supposed to protect is grossly unjust. Workers should not be afraid to speak up against abusive employers due to the fear of retaliation, and that’s exactly what is going on here.”
“We are truly appreciative of DOL’s decision to have PGCPS pay these teachers back the wages owed to them,” adds Johanna Hester, National President of APALA. “This is just one of the many examples of how immigrant workers are consistently exploited, and we are looking forward to working with other unions and the DOL for steps on how to support immigrant workers, like the PGCPS teachers, without punishing them further.”

This ruling was set forth by DOL to punish PGCPS for illegal deductions made to their teachers’ wages for visa processing fees, which by law, should have been shouldered by them. PGCPS eventually compensated the educators for these wages but is now refusing to process the extension of their visas, due to this ruling.
At the APALA Convention this past weekend, APALA leaders spoke to U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis and her staff on behalf of the teachers. “We are very appreciative of the Secretary who found time to meet with us and learn more about the issue,” Dizon said. “We hope a reasonable solution favorable to the teachers will come out of it.” Secretary Solis was a keynote speaker at the convention.

Emmelle Israel, AFL-CIO Media Outreach fellow, took part in the Save Our Schools rally this weekend and sends us this report.

Educators, students and community members from across the nation joined together July 30 for the Save Our Schools March and National Day of Action. The crowd of thousands rallied for two hours in the Washington, D.C., summer sun on the Ellipse Park, just south of the White House. After hearing from speakers such as former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Education and New York University professor Diane Ravitch to actor/activist Matt Damon—whose mother was a teacher and union member—the crowd began a march around the White House. The rally united everyone under the cause of education reform, but the variety of signs and slogans on display (“We Need Teachers Not Tests,” “Equality for English Learning Students,” “Cut Corporations Not Education”) emphasized the variety of issues that need to be addressed to rebuild public education.

One contingent of teachers at the rally, the Pilipino Educators Network of Prince George’s County in Maryland, highlighted how the issues of budget cuts, immigration, labor and standards-driven education reform intersect. After No Child Left Behind was passed in 2001, several school districts were left scrambling to find teachers who met higher certification requirements mandated by the law. In Prince George’s County, school officials turned to hiring from abroad. Since 2005, Prince George’s County Public Schools actively recruited more than 1,000 of the school district’s 9,000 teachers from other countries, mainly the Philippines. These teachers came with special certifications and qualifications to fill positions that schools typically have difficulty finding candidates for—science, math, foreign language and special education. Continue reading AFL CIO Blog

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