AEA President’s Rant Stirs Up Concerns About Pressured Teachers

AEA president address educators at the Capitol in March.

A rant by Arizona Education Association president, Joe Thomas, has raised concerns for teachers, who have grown weary of the #redfored movement. In the video, Thomas demands that union liaisons “better make sure” that teachers “wear a red shirt every Wednesday.”

Thomas advised the liaisons, “The Legislature needs to see that we are serious. That we’re paying attention. That we have not closed our eyes, and they’ve not done enough.”

Union leaders like Thomas appear to recognize that support of the #redfored movement has been waning and many overwhelmed teachers are too focused on their classrooms to engage in political activity. As a result, Thomas’ admonishment comes as no surprise.

What might come as a surprise to parents, however, is the fact that the teachers union does not appear to have plans for a May 1 walkout. The threat of a walkout has been held out throughout the 2019 legislative session in order to ensure that teachers see the promised 5 percent increase in funding.

Michelle Dillard, a member of the child/parent advocacy group, Purple For Parents, said after seeing the video, “I hope the districts and administrations take these threats seriously and step up immediately to protect our teachers. It should be made clear that any harassment or intimidation will not be tolerated. The hostile work environment that #RedForEd has created is the learning environment for our children. Modeling bullying behavior in front of our kids is shameful.”

Purple For Parents was formed in response to the teacher walk out last spring. Teachers across the state walked out of their classrooms. Despite the fact that Governor Doug Ducey and the Legislature had already agreed to, and provided for, a substantial teacher-pay increase, teachers walked out as part of a get-out-the-vote efforts by the Democratic Party.